HL Deb 19 May 1965 vol 266 cc458-549

2.42 p.m.

LORD LLEWELYN-DAVIES rose to call attention to the problems of urban planning and development; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, before introducing this Motion I must declare my interests. I am a member of a Committee which advises my right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government on the problems of research in urban planning; in fact I am the Chairman of that Committee. I am also a member of a similar Committee which advises my right honourable friend the Minister for Land and Natural Resources. I am also in practice as an architect, and am concerned with several projects associated with New Towns and the redevelopment of existing cities.

The subject of urban development was debated in this House on March 4, 1964, on a Motion introduced by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. This led to a full and most interesting discussion. There was at that time general agreement from noble Lords on both sides of the House as well as on the Cross Benches, on the objectives which we ought to be seeking and the problems which we had to solve in order to reach them. I do not think it necessary this afternoon for us to go over again the question of the urgency of this problem, a factor which was so fully brought out during the previous debate a year ago. It will be better for us to talk of what has happened since that debate and to consider the practical needs for immediate action which we now have to face.

I am particularly glad to know that there are in the House to-day, proposing to speak in this debate, two noble Lords who have done so much to put British town planning where it is at present—I believe in the forefront in the world. They are, of course, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and the noble Lord, Lord Holford, who is to make his first speech here to-day. Lord Silkin, when Minister, was the architect for British post-war planning, for its broad concepts and its great achievements. Lord Holford, as Technical Adviser in the Ministry, did a great deal to build up the theoretical structure on which the whole practice of British planning now rests. I know that several noble Lords, with longer experience and deeper knowledge than mine, intend to speak this afternoon. Partly for that reason and partly because the subject is so broad, I do not propose to cover the whole of the questions which are concerned with the planning of the human environment. The topics on which I hope to concentrate in opening the debate this afternoon are what one might almost call the theoretical bases—the aims and principles which underlie work in this field in the future.

Your Lordships are well aware of the reasons why this subject is so urgent. There are three principal causes: the explosive increase in population; the almost equally violent increase in the use of the motor car; and, of course, the fact that such a large proportion of our present building stock, including houses, is now life-expired and coming up for renewal. Your Lordships will remember that the Buchanan Report shows—and its figures have never been challenged—that in twenty years' time the number of cars in this country will have trebled. When one considers population, it is interesting to notice that the figures quoted by the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, in the debate in 1964 have already practically been exceeded.

The latest predictions from the Registrar General's Office are that by 1982 the population of this country will have increased by 8 million, bringing it up from 52 million in 1962 to nearly 60 million in 1982. The Times of to-day carries a report of a speech by Mr. Hugh Wilson, who points out that to house the increased population of this country will be equivalent to building a New Town of the size of Harlow or Stevenage every seven months from now onwards. What I hope to argue this afternoon is that these dramatic increases in population and the use of the motor car throw into question many of the more basic principles of town planning, and that therefore many of our fundamental concepts of urban renewal require a fresh look in terms of this dramatic and dynamic situation.

Speaking in the debate in March, 1964, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made the following statement. He said: We must recognise that we are living in a world of swift and revolutionary changes. We are still at the beginning of the age of computers, of automation, of nuclear energy and of other inventions, and I am certain that the effect of all these will change dramatically the shape, pattern and character of our towns, certainly those of the future. It may no longer be essential to have special commercial or industrial zones, causing traffic congestion and longer journeys to and from work. If the industry of the future is to be, as one hopes, clean, smokeless and noiseless, there will be no reason for segregation in special industrial zones."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 256, cols. 130–1, March 4, 1964.]

Those words of Lord Silkin over a year ago are really my text for this afternoon. The man-made structure of which our towns are composed—the buildings, streets, sewers, the whole fabric of urban construction—is an expensive and long-lasting affair. If we design a New Town with new constructions to fit the life of to-day, we may be quite sure that it will be out of date long before it decays. Can we try to guess at what life will be like in the future and design for it; or, perhaps better, can we imagine or envisage a pattern of urban development and city construction sufficiently flexible in its very nature to absorb and ride with the changes in the pattern of human life and living which will occur within the life of these massive objects that we have to build? These are the questions that I want to discuss just now.

As I intend to speculate rather freely, I should first say that I think we must recognise that plans and projects which, by their very nature, involve a level of expenditure far beyond what the economy of the country can bear do not make any great contribution to the solution of the problems which face us. On the other hand, we must beware of setting our financial targets too low. There is not much doubt that, as a nation, we are going to have to spend more on the physical plant of our cities in the next decades than we have been accustomed to spend in the past. The reason for this, of course, is rather simple. It is because, being first in the field as a great industrial nation, we had about 60 years ago, at the turn of the century, a massive investment in buildings and urban structures, and as the great bulk of these buildings are now time-expired their replacement is upon us. Therefore, we are in a cycle of building investment in a period when we must spend more than we used to do.

If we are able to establish within the next couple of years the structure of a Government with local responsibility, with a power situation which will enable effective planning to be introduced, and if we are able to find money for this from the national economy, then we shall need to make plans; and the men who make the plans will need to be furnished with a body of ideas so that they can have an intellectual armoury with which they can plan the future development of our new and old cities. In the end, decisions about planning, which vitally affect individuals as well as houses, the users of cities, buildings, industry and the economic future of the country, must be taken politically by Government and by local authorities. Decisions as to planning are not matters for technologists, planners or architects; they are matters for the elected representatives of the people. These representatives will take these decisions on the information and advice that can be supplied, but they are eventually political issues. Therefore, we cannot hope that the decisions will be taken rightly and wisely, unless the alternatives open to us at this juncture in planning the future of our cities are fairly and properly put before the public and their representatives.

This requires a theoretical basis of knowledge and understanding of great strength and power. It might be argued that the experience of planning in this country already embodies a body of knowledge and a set of ideas and principles adequate for the task. I do not think that this is the case. There is indeed a body of knowledge and practice of planning, or at least a body of conventional wisdom. But I believe that the events of the last few years, particularly the dramatic problems of population, the motor car, and obsolescence, to which I referred earlier, are so important and so significant that they call at the present time for a rather radical review of our way of thinking and our way of acting in this area.

The great structure of thought which has been built up in Britain in planning, and in which it probably leads the world, owes its origin to the period immediately after the last war. At that time our thoughts were coloured by the then population predictions, which dated from before the war and, as your Lordships will remember, looked forward to a modest increase in the population in the British Isles up to about now, to a figure rather below what it is to-day, followed then by a fairly steady decline. It was also a period of petrol rationing. Therefore, it is not surprising that many of the concepts of planning and urban development originating in that period were developed in a climate very different from what it is to-day. It is for these reasons that we now have to look at things afresh.

One of the main concepts in British planning at that time was the restriction of the growth of cities. Owing to the modest or gloomy predictions as to the future population, only London was then thought of as having an expansion problem. It was proposed that London should be contained by the imposition of a Green Belt, and that the additional population in the area should be housed in New Towns of a self-contained nature some distance beyond that Green Belt. The concept that one could or should hold the population of towns to a previously determined figure became a thoroughly established canon of planning practice, and if one were to obtain to-day the documents and plans of most British cities it would be found that they begin with a characteristic sentence: The following plan is based on the assumption that the city of XYZ has now reached its maximum if not its ideal number, and that all further growth will now cease; and all subsequent arguments depend on this assumption. Of course, the assumption has proved completely false, and this is the root cause of many of the problems of urban development with which we are faced.

There is a fairly long history of attempts to control the growth of cities, at least in this country. Queen Elizabeth I issued a Proclamation in 1580 prohibiting the future growth of London, which she felt had reached the limits of possible expansion. I believe that Hyde Park, St. James's Park and the Green Park represent the green belt which she then established to check the undesirable expansion of this City. Of course she did not succeed, any more than subsequent generations of planners have done. I believe that, had the population remained stable, had motor ownership developed slowly, the concepts which underlay our city plans of those days might very well have worked. The fact that in London alone was it then perceived that there was a growth problem perhaps helped to make London, and the shape of the new cities around London, the most dramatic success of that period of planning. I think we must say that the creation of the ring of new cities around London was the greatest positive achievement of British planning, and was an achievement which put us in the forefront of the world.

Very shortly, I think that we could summarise the concepts of planning immediately after the war as falling under three headings: first, the limitation of the size of cities by the establishment of green belts and the deliberate restriction of development secondly, the provision for increased population, so far as possible in self-contained, fairly small new towns, some distance from existing centres; and, thirdly, of course, the control of development within the cities in accordance with a land-use plan. The control of development within cities was intended to provide for growth and change with shifts of land use within cities, but in practice it sometimes acted in the opposite direction. For a number of reasons, with which noble Lords will be familiar, planning authorities have been compelled between the wars to limit the spread of certain forms of land use in order to protect others.

I was looking yesterday at two land use maps. One was of the conurbations in North-East England around the Tyne and the Wear, and the other was of Philadelphia, in the United States. There are certain reasons why it is of some interest to compare these two areas. What is most striking, if one looks at a map showing shopping areas coloured red, housing coloured blue, factories coloured brown, and so on, and compares these two great urban areas in this country and America, is that whereas in Britain, around the Tyne, the central functions are crammed into tiny central areas bang in the middle of the historic centres, in Philadelphia there is a much broader spread. The shopping areas, the employment centres and the cultural centres are spread over the area of the built-up city in a looser and freer way than they are in our own example.

When you turn to look from the land use maps to the patterns of transport and traffic, you see at once the result of the intense concentration which our historic cities in England have. Because, of course, almost every journey is a journey from the outside into the centre, and all the journeys pile up at peak hours into this fantastic volume of central area traffic, to which Buchanan has called attention in his Report and which it seems beyond our powers to solve. Where there is, as in some American cities, a more diffuse pattern of central function, you have a more random pattern of journeys across the face of the city, and the transport problems are of a different order of magnitude and are easier to solve.

Now how is it that we have one kind of city and they have another? I think the reason lies in the history of urban development. In England—and, indeed, in most European countries—great cities have grown from very tiny origins. A ford or some key geographical or topographic centre attracts the establishment of a couple of houses, a Lord's castle or a cathedral, and around this very tiny historic centre, two or three buildings at a critical point the town gradually grows, with a series of rings, of accretions, all round it. With this pattern of growth, it is natural to find a radial structure. The roads lead outwards from Piccadilly Circus, or the Place de la Concorde. In every historic city, the roads lead out in a ring, in a radial pattern from the centre; and everybody thinks of the city in terms of this sort. Everyone thinks of his house in terms of how far it is from Piccadilly Circus. We tend to think of all journeys—as, indeed, most journeys are—into the centre, through an angle and out again to the next point you want to get to. This is a whole concept of city structure and city life which arises from the historical pattern of our cities. With such cities, it is impossible to avoid a throttling of the centre, because the accretion of continuous rings of residential space, of growing population, gradually shuts in the centre and makes it difficult for it to expand.

A few cities, instead of growing naturally in the way I have described, have been specially built as complete entities. Some have been built by kings and dictators. When they were built by kings or dictators, they were usually just the same as the natural cities: they were radial—because, of course, the king or the dictator liked to think of himself as sitting in the middle and looking down the radial streets, monarch of all he surveyed. He was "it", and everyone else was around him. But there are a few other cities which were built in a different way by different kinds of people, and these were the cities which were built by semi-democratic groups of colonists who went out from one society and built a complete colony in another. It is rather interesting that the basic idea behind the cities of the Greek colonists who went out into Asia Minor, to Miletus and Priene, are exactly the same as the basic ideas of the Pilgrim Fathers who went from here to found new democratic cities in America. In both cases—indeed, I think in all cases where a group of men went out as a group to build a new city—they started off with a rectilinear, chess board or gridiron concept, rather than a radial one.

One may speculate about the historical and social reasons for this. Perhaps it was something to do with democracy: they wanted Joe's site to be like Jim's site, whereas, of course, in a radial city, everybody's site is one below the next man's as it gets away from the centre, where the king lives. However that may be, it is an historic fact that the gridiron plan is characteristic of the colony city, and that is where we found it so often in American cities. Once you have a city on this sort of plan, you have something very much less centripetal than the historic city. Whilst some squares on a chess board are more central than others, there is no very great difference among a large number of squares about the middle of the board, and all journeys are various forms of Knight's moves or Castle's moves about the board; and there is not the same polar concept at the bottom of the city. I think it may well be that this concept of city planning leads to a form of urban development which is more free to accept change and the diffusion of central function over time.

There is, indeed, some evidence for this, because in America some cities, particularly Chicago, publish maps showing land value distribution all over the city. These are very interesting. They draw contours, and you can see the high-price sites standing up like mountains and the cheap sites lying below like valleys. If you drew this map for London, or any centrally-organised city, you would find a fairly simple pattern with enormous prices in the middle and a gradual fall-off towards the perimeter. But in the American cities, you find a more diffuse pattern, and one that changes over time. In the last twenty years the land value map of Chicago has practically turned inside out, and things that were once of high value have become of low value. This means that in fact there is a shunting and shifting about of central function in these cities to meet growth, and this is one of the things which relieves the crushing pressure which is developing on the central parts of British cities to-day.

Of course, America cannot be set up as a model for this country. In America, the social control of development is very weak, and there are many problems and disadvantages which face American cities, including centre area blight, which we should not wish to see here. Here, we are, I think, firmly embarked upon a path of social control of development in cities. But, of course, while development can be controlled by social legislation and planning, and influenced by public investment, it is also to a considerable degree affected by private investment—and in a mixed economy this must always be the case. What we have to do is to so understand the interaction of public policy and public investment with the forces of the market which influence city development, so as to be able to guide them in a wise direction. In considering where we have to go in the future, perhaps we should look at where our present arrangements for the control of urban development have failed to deliver the results for which they were intended and for which they were planned.

One of the most important places where at the present time we are not succeeding is in the matter of making appropriate arrangements for providing for the institutions which go to make up a city. It is conventional in planning circles to think of a city primarily in terms of housing, thinking of the other services in a city as something which serves the people that live in the houses. This is one way of looking at cities. Another way would be to look at the institutions, and to regard the city as the sum of the institutions which make it up—the universities, the churches, the hospitals and the central law functions. There is a whole mass of institutions which go to make up the life of a great city, and these institutions require housing and other services to support them. It is rather fruitful occasionally to look at the problem of city development from the other end, and to consider the city as an agglomeration of living institutions. These institutions, whether they are great businesses or public institutions, have a certain autonomous life. They grow and change with function, and one of the characteristics of these institutions is that their area needs to expand. A recent study of hospitals has shown that hospitals in this country generally need to expand their physical space, their building space, by about 100 per cent. within fifty years if they are to continue to function. So, if you imagine a city as being composed of these constitutions, all growing and forming, something must "give"; and the obvious thing is that some of them will have to move out if the others are to stay.

An important criterion of effective planning should be that wise choices are made possible for the life of the institutions which compose the great cities. It is true to say that to-day this is not happening. So far as public institutions such as universities and hospitals are concerned, the problems of growth and expansion are not being met. In the nature of things, some such institutions must move out, but others must remain. It will be vital for the life and health of our future cities for the right institutions to be maintained in central sites wherever necessary. But if they are maintained there, it must be possible for them to acquire sufficient space around their sites to expand and develop; otherwise they will die. You cannot keep a university on a site of a fixed size; it must be able either to expand or to move out. The growth of these institutions is as organic as the growth of a tree. At the present time many institutions, including London University in this city, are in a grave situation because we have not so arranged our planning affairs as to enable them to escape into a new environment or to expand where they are. At present, the position is that the price of land in the centre of cities has escalated to such a point that practically no public institution, however much it desires to do so, is able to buy land at market prices to enable it to survive on its site.

There is another matter (I will not pursue it too much, because I know that other noble Lords will be talking about it) in which we must count our present arrangements as being less than adequate. It is the preservation from the past of what is good. I am afraid that in the last twenty years we have seen the historic centres of several very lovely cities in Britain destroyed by development. Despite powerful rearguard actions by the planning authorities, the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Civic Trust, we have failed to prevent these things from happening. I am afraid that we have probably failed also to prevent the desolation of important and valuable areas of countryside. I do not believe that we need to suffer these losses in order to meet the demands of the increasing population. That problem is not a great or impossible one. I think there is enough space; but the machinery must be there to make sure that we put it in the right, not the wrong, place. I hope other noble Lords will take up this point.

We are going to have to build a large number of New Towns, larger than the number which the Government have at present authorised, in order to meet the increase in population. We are rightly proud of our first-generation New Towns, which have been a success. Practically no other country has succeeded in creating towns with a balance of employment and residence and with central services to match the growth of the population. But I think that when we come to plan the future New Towns we may have to look again at some of the principles which guided the planners of the first round. It will not be right to think that the New Towns (which are often built within striking distance of the great conurbations) are going to be independent communities. I believe that the people who live in them will often travel thirty or forty miles to work in the surrounding areas: and the new towns must offer social. cultural and other central functions and facilities like theatres to which people will come from a considerable distance and which will not merely serve the 50,000 or 100,000 or so population of the new towns.

If you put down a new town in relation to other conurbations you are exerting a great leverage. This will be an impact on the situation. You can use this not merely to make a little community for, say, 50,000 people, but to raise the whole standards of human expectation in the area and provide all sorts of good things which are not in existence in the older settlements surrounding it. It is important not to think too much in terms of new towns as self-contained; we must think of them as injecting new life into the areas in which they are placed. We should not be afraid of the idea of people living in them going around in motorcars. The motor car is too often thought of as a menace, but in fact it is a great blessing to be able to go 30 miles to the theatre, or even 20 miles to work, so that people can change their place of work without changing their house.

These are positive social matters. We should not try to fight against these new ideas. We should accept them. I think we shall need to look again in the planning of these towns which have tended to reproduce the old radial growth of the older established cities. We may have something to learn from Miletus or even Philadelphia. If we are to think of these towns as important social and economic leverage points in bringing forward the great conurbations of this country, then we have to think of them in terms of planning in the areas which the great conurbations cover.

This raises the problem, on what scale of operation should this kind of planning be undertaken? We now have the beginnings of an economic planning machine on rather large regions for economic planning set up recently. My right honourable friend the Minister for Housing and Local Government, addressing the Town Planning Institute not long ago, suggested that these regions, the economic planning regions, set up under the Minister of Economic Affairs, are too large to form appropriate envelopes or packages for physical planning. On the other hand, the present centres under which physical planning is carried out, the county boroughs and the counties, are, of course, too small.

If you come to put down a new town near Birmingham, or at Clydeside it is going to affect a dozen local authority areas and the planning of it in relation to the region must be on a larger scale. I believe the Minister was right in suggesting that a sub-regional area covering more than one local authority—and probably several local authorities—but below the level of the great national economic regions, is probably the appropriate one at which to consider these broader aspects of physical planning. This will mean, of course, that with the help of central Government, groups of local authorities will have to come together and sponsor studies at sub-regional levels for planning. I believe that this will take place; and I think it is high time that it did. I do not think any sub-regional studies are yet in progress, but time is running short. We are bound to make a massive investment in rehousing soon. If we have not got sub-regional plans in draft before taking the basic decisions, we may put this investment wrongly.

To conclude these remarks on the very broad concept of planning, it seems to me that many of the ideas on which we have been working need a new look. I think we should take as the first principle in what we are to do in the future that everything we do, in terms of road layout, transport capacity of the network, land use, the zoning regulations, must be designed to make for the maximum freedom to accept growth and change and the least rigidity. If we did this, we should have a new approach to planning, and it would be found that quite a number of assumed basic theoretical aims might turn out to be the wrong way up and would have to be turned on their heads.

My Lords, I have talked about only one aspect of this problem. There are many others. There are the powers needed to enable this sort of thing to be carried out; there is the relation between national and local government. The powers that we have are not, I believe, far from being adequate. And when we have something better about land, and when the Minister of Housing and Local Government has looked at some of the problems that he is looking at now on the administration of control, we may have a machine which is adequate to the task. But if we are to use it effectively we must know where we are going, and we must face some of the questions that I have tried to put before your Lordships this afternoon.

This problem can be solved only by a massive direction of our universities towards research into the social, economic and architectural problems of urban affairs. Last year I spoke in your Lordships' House on this subject, with the support of many other noble Lords, and at the end of the debate the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, singled out the question of research and pressed the then Government to support the establishment of an architectural research council for built-up environments. Since then, the views of the Royal Institute of British Architects and other bodies and of the noble Lord, Lord Holford, have been made known, and all take the same view.

I should like once again to press for a much more massive injection of university manpower and Government money into this field. I think that it is vital. As I said at the beginning, as Chairman of the Committee I am entrusted by the Minister of Housing and Local Government to report on these matters to him but I am bound to say that the pace of progress is not so fast as I should like it to be and I should like to urge all concerned to make this faster.


My Lords, before the noble Lord resumes his seat—if he will pardon the intervention—he said that New Towns should be culturally self-contained. With that I agree, and I wonder whether he could give some indication of the optimum size of such a self-contained cultural unit.


My Lords, replying to the noble Lord, Lord Peddie, I am afraid I did not say that they should be self-contained. I said the opposite. I said that we tended to think of them as self-contained, but with the spread of motor car ownership and the widening of people's range of movement they no longer should be looked at as being confined within the bounds of their designated areas and providing services only for their own people, but should be looked at as providing a new cultural element for the other communities around them. They would not be doing their job if they did not go far beyond providing for their own people and make new social, economic and cultural facilities open to the people within a considerable radius.

On the question of optimum size, I believe that there is no such thing. This is an interesting topic, which comes up in many fields—the optimum size of a university, the optimum size of a hospital or the optimum size of a town. I believe that this is a meaningless question. There is only an optimum size in relation to a certain structure. If we have a town of a certain kind with a certain form of plan—and there will be a size above which it cannot go without something "giving"—the question of the optimum size or maximum size can be considered only in terms of the structure of the town itself. There is no sense in saying that Crawley is a better size than London. They are quite different institutions and the size limits of both are dependent on what we make the basic structure. We can handle increased size if we are prepared radically to review the structure, administrative, physical and architectural, of the new institutions or cities with which we are concerned.

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, I have always thought that there are many things your Lordships' House does well, and I feel sure it is on the occasion of a debate like this that this House shows up in its most refulgent glory. I hope that it will not be regarded as a pure formality if I say how grateful the House must be to the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, both for his speech this afternoon and for giving us an occasion which has attracted the maiden speech, to which we greatly look forward, of the noble Lord, Lord Holford, and other speeches by distinguished Members of the House, who know a great deal more about this subject, I am afraid, than I do. I will be as brief as I can, so that we can get on to the real delicacies of the afternoon a little later.

I do not think that there will be any dispute that when it comes to the design of New Towns, about which the noble Lord had a certain amount to say, there is every range and every possibility for all the new ideas which the noble Lord has suggested and for those which many others may have in mind as well. Indeed, the very variety of the New Towns, from Stevenage to Cumbernauld and of Livingstone, still to come, is an example of how town planning in the urban sense has progressed over a short period and how completely revolutionary ideas are accepted, are put into practice and are much admired.

When thinking of what I would say this afternoon, I was not so concerned with the new towns as with the redevelopment of the old. The noble Lord spoke about towns which were designed on the grid pattern. So far as I know, in this country there are only two—Middlesbrough and Milford Haven. I do not know what the technical term for this type of development is—is it "planning by squares"? At any rate, in most cases, we are not able to deal thus with these historic old towns which have grown up in the way the noble Lord described, and of course, the complications of dealing with them are immense.

I must say that I was relieved, when the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, dropped all his Papers on the floor by mistake a little while ago, to see that he had in his file the two planning booklets, 1 and 3, which for long have been my Bible on this subject. They set out in detail all the fantastic problems that are involved and offer good advice on how to deal with them. I hope that the advice they contain is still valid and that the present Government will produce more in this series, because I am sure they are of great value. I hope also that the Government are not going to change radically the advice that has been given in the booklets issued by their predecessors. No doubt the noble Lord will say something about this in due course.

I want to deal this afternoon, if I may, not with the wider points of theory, on which I cannot adequately speak, but with something rather more approaching the nuts and bolts. I believe that there are 400 town centre redevelopment schemes now either before the Ministry or in some stage of preparation. When the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, spoke of swift changes in conception which we have to bear in mind for the future, there is this difficulty: that sooner or later we are going to have to make decisions on schemes at present being prepared on the old concepts, otherwise the whole process of renewal of urban centres will come to a grinding halt and will remain there for a long time.

The "scale of planning" is another of the phrases which the noble Lord used. I do not see it so much as a matter of regions, in the context in which I am speaking, but much more as a matter of co-ordination between Departments of Government and the local authorities. It is true that where there is a self-contained county borough it may have to have coordination with the county council and the boroughs that adjoin it, but, on the whole, what I am particularly interested in is the co-ordination between the central Government and the local authorities. The noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, in the debate on Monday on the Control of Offices Bill, mentioned a good example of what can be done in this field. The message I got from the noble Lord on that occasion was that in the preparatory stages of any town centre schemes there would be great co-ordination between the Board of Trade, the Ministry of Housing and the local authorities. Clearly the more restrictions you make, of the type that Bill contains, the more difficult it becomes, especially since in so many cases offices are a financial pivot for the whole scheme.

But there are a lot of other things in any scheme around which it will have to be built, and which will shape the function of the town which is being planned. Is it, for instance, an office centre only?—because in that event the Board of Trade will have to come in. Is it a regional shopping centre? Is it the focal point of a county, the historic place to which all the roads in the neighbourhood lead, which will make it a different place again, a place to which all the small towns and villages round about will send their inhabitants to seek the amenities of good shops, theatres and all the other things which only a large town can provide. These are the sort of matters of pattern with which one is concerned in a town centre redevelopment. I do not think, however helpful the noble Lord's theoretical concepts may be, that we are going to change that fundamental problem of deciding what is the function for which we are planning this particular town centre.

Then, again, in many of these respects neighbouring towns compete. The way it is planned very often is that each local authority involved in a scheme of this sort brings in its own consultant. Each consultant, obviously, very much backed up by the proud local authority he is serving, wishes to make his own town the best, the grandest and finest of them all. One thinks that it is going to attract the people to come into their shops from a large area round about, whereas the neighbouring town thinks that exactly the same people will go to the shops and offices, or whatever it may be, of that neighbouring town.

I was interested to see in the third of the bulletins to which I referred earlier the information that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government can very often assist to put the particular local authority concerned in the picture as to what its rivals are doing round about. I hope that in future there will be no slackening in this method, and that we shall have the Board of Trade very much involved in this as well, both in the case of industry and in the case of offices. I hope that this will be done on a very high level and throughout every stage of the preparation of these schemes.

There are these fundamental assumptions on which a town centre map or something of that nature is prepared. I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell me about this, because it may be that there is room here for improvement in the machinery: Do the local authorities who are preparing, or thinking about, the redevelopment and the new urban planning of their towns tell all to the Minister? Do they tell him at an early stage the way they are thinking this out, so that by this advisory policy that the Minister, apparently, is so willing to adopt—and I am sure, rightly—he is at every moment fully informed of what is going on? Otherwise, it will not do, because the information will be out of date. I hope, therefore, that when there is this assistance from central Government to the local government in the preparation of their scheme it will work both ways and there will be excellent cooperation at local level in letting the central Government know what it is doing.

There is another side of this. It is the local authority that is the mainspring of all the urban planning that is done at the moment. But it has always been my view, at any rate, that local government is not for the good of the local authority; it is for the good of the people who live in the towns. What I am a little concerned about is the question of how far the pepople who live and work and have their interest and livelihood in the town are involved in the process of urban planning at the moment. Again, the Ministry of Housing and Local Government have said that there should be the greatest possible publicity. They set out four heads under which it might take place: there should be consultation; there should be publicity; there should be discussion; and then—and this is of the greatest importance to the public—there should be revision if, after all these first three stages, they find that they have some of these things wrong.

The other thing that the public are a little concerned about, and it is the source of a great deal of their disquiet, is the question of who is to do the redevelopment and who is to own the land in the end. People love their freeholds and will fight very hard to keep them. This applies not only to householders, but to people with commercial property, as well. Much of the difficulty and feeling that occurs in the preparation of new schemes for urban redevelopment is the prospect that their freeholds will be lost. As I see it, with the new concepts that have been introduced by the Buchanan Report (incidentally, I saw the other day at Keighley an interesting example of how this can be put into practice; although it is not on the ground at the moment, there is a fully advanced plan to bring it about), it will be extremely difficult for anyone but the local authority to assemble the land to produce a two-deck system, a three-deck system or whatever it is, that will enable traffic to be separated, with pedestrians on one level and vehicles on another. But, apart from that, I tend to think that there is the opportunity at the moment for a great deal too much municipal land-owning to come about. What happens is that there are then leases to developers, and they have to produce, in the course of constructing the scheme, which they have taken as a whole, in the usual case, things like a new town hall, a library or a new park.

I was interested in the remarks of the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, about the institutions in the town. Some of the institutions with which the local authority are concerned, and which they run themselves, are the library, and particularly the town hall. But there are also such things as universities and hospitals. I found it a little difficult to follow the noble Lord on one point. All these amenities have to be paid for at a very expensive price, and usually they have to be central. When we are talking about a town, say, for the sake of argument (I know this begins immediately to arouse certain noble Lords, but I will risk it) Oxford, the university was the centre of Oxford, and that is what the town grew around. But it is by no means necessarily easy to see how that university can grow in the middle of the town with land at the price it is; and if it is going to do so, somebody will have to pay for it. All these institutions have to be paid for. Everybody in the town will benefit from them. What occurs, however? It costs so much that, on the whole, the developer who carries out the huge main scheme has to sublet the individual shops or factories, or whatever it is, at a price which takes into account what he has had to spend on the whole scheme. These leases are very expensive.

The tendency is, therefore, certainly in the shopping field, to fill the new town centre with multiples. I have nothing whatever against multiple shops; they are magnificent. But it should not be the only thing which occurs in a town centre. There are, in theory, priorities for the displaced traders; and long may that go on. I think the law is lamentably slack in what it can do to help these people. But the trouble about displaced traders, and particularly the small ones, is: can they afford the rents? The answer is almost certainly that they cannot. If they cannot, where do they go? And if they can afford the rents, sometimes it happens that the developer does not produce the right sort of shop for them; it is not the right size, is not the right shape and has not the right frontage. One needs to make the centre of any town gay and live and the sort of place that one expects—the clockmaker, the little shop that sells hats, the newsagent and so forth. I think—and I hope that I may make a few constructive suggestions about it—that these things can be coped with.

I have three points that I should like to make. First of all, I think that chambers of commerce, when they come to consider a proposed town centre redevelopment, could do a great deal more to co-ordinate themselves and tell the local authority what they want. I do not mean just the chamber of commerce as it represents the big people. I should like the smaller traders to get themselves together as well, and for them to exert some pressure upon the local authority to give them the accommodation that they need. Those are the people who cannot afford individually to brief somebody, to employ a surveyor, to bring pressure, but if they banded together they would get somewhere and would provide exactly that variety in the town centre, or very close to it, if not in the main street, which I think is so desirable.

Then I think more efforts should be made to sell back freehold to the people interested part of the land which has been taken over for the re-development scheme. I hope the Government still agree with the indication in the first of those planning bulletins—it is paragraph 67 of the first bulletin—which suggests that this is a proper thing for a local authority to do. Of course, it is not always possible, but I believe that there may well be cases where rather more property could be offered, or the scheme could contain the possibility of freeholds coming back to the individual shopowner and particularly the individual house owner at the end of the redevelopment scheme—not, I grant you, only at the price at which they were bought, because it is not fair that these shopowners or houseowners should not have to pay for the advantage that they have all gained from the greatly increased value and amenity of the town centre which has been created. Nevertheless, they should have the opportunity to get back there and to own their own land. I believe that this sort of thing, if it were made more widely known, if it were dealt with earlier on in the planning of these schemes, would reduce a great deal of the objection that at present occurs.

Moreover, could not something more be done—and this is really a legal matter—to persuade private individuals themselves to redevelop within the concept, the general plan of the scheme? I know that very often the difficulty is that they cannot put together enough pieces of land to form a whole big enough to develop. Some can, however, but I think the local authorities tend to be a little afraid of allowing private enterprise to go ahead without preliminary compulsory purchase and the control offered through the ground lease, because of the lack of control that the law gives them. The only machinery which is at present capable of use is Section 37 of the Town and Country Planning Act, which allows agreements on the use of land to be made between the planning authority and land owners. That section is restrictive. It deals with restrictions, and there is noth- ing positive in it at all which gives the local authority any guarantee that what they have in mind will be carried out.

I was interested—and I hope it is not out of order to refer to this—in one of the provisions of a Private Bill which is at present going through Parliament, promoted by me Manchester Corporation. I hasten to say that there are a number of things in it with which I do not agree at all, but there are provisions in Clause 9—again, I do not agree with all that is in that clause—which at any rate make an attempt to produce a system by which a positive agreement can be made between the local planning authority and the private individual to redevelop, subject to sanctions, according to the scheme. That has been agreed between them all. I think there is room for this. I believe that the machinery of the law is at the present moment lacking, and I think Manchester Corporation have started a very good idea which it would be well worth while the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, and the Ministry of Housing and Local Government taking a further look at in due course.

I am sorry if I have spoken for a long time, but I am nearly at an end. There is the great safety valve—my favourite subject—the public inquiry. Incidentally, it is a safeguard, too, to some of those areas of natural beauty to which the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, referred. He will remember, with joy no doubt, the outcome of the Stevenage inquiry. The Ministry is in a difficult position. I talked about the co-ordination between the Ministry, the Board of Trade and the local authorities—and this is what the noble Lord was speaking about on Monday. He made the point, which was a very good one—he did not like my Amendment—that the Ministry must not appear to have made up its mind beforehand. This is vital. What one wants, however, is a public inquiry, when the people who are going to benefit by these schemes come to bring their criticism, to bring their complaints, before the Minister, in the only way that is open to them in the law. You want informed criticism. You want belief that you are going to make some impact. Those are the two things which I believe are vitally important.

The difficulty at the present moment is that, with the best experts in the world, you do not know what the scheme is about. You do not know the financial basis; you do not know what advice the Ministry has given; you do not know how it compares with what is going on in the next town: you cannot make a proper assessment of whether or not this is the right scheme for this town. Therefore, there is no informed criticism. People go away from the inquiry with a feeling that they have been fobbed off, that they have not been understood or listened to, because the whole thing was preconceived. I wonder whether the Ministry, the Board of Trade, and the local authorities, could not give a little more information to the public at that stage, early on in the scheme, before the public inquiry; a little more of a financial synopsis than is rather reluctantly doled out at the moment; a little more of the information upon which the whole thing has been based.

Everyone talks of modernisation. The noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, talked about this as our environment, and so it is. I believe we are on a vitally important subject here. I believe that not only is the theory of tremendous importance, but so is the machinery, because it is, after all, the citizen who has to live in it. The citizen should have his part in the preparation of these schemes. He should be satisfied with the outcome of them. Although I have made a long and tedious speech about machinery, my concern is that this should be the feeling of the citizen at the end of the day when he lives in that town. We are grateful to the noble Lord, and I think he has introduced a most interesting subject.

3.47 p.m.


My Lords, the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, has drawn attention to some of the gaps in our knowledge of how towns grow and develop and of how our "built" environment, if one may use a handy term, is changing and could be improved. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, with immense clarity and force, has added some practical questions to the able theoretical exposition of the speech which the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, made. As this is a subject which concerns everyone as individuals, as families and as live communities, even perhaps some of us as freeholders, and certainly as a working nation that has given and continues to give new ideas and a long experience of self-government to the world, this is bound to be also a very wide subject, and it may easily become diffuse.

Town planners since the days of Hippo-damus in the Third Century B.C. have been noted for their loquacity, and this despite the fact that town planning, if I may say so in all modesty, is a humbling experience, because the more that one delves into it, the more one realises how little one knows. Therefore, in offering my first and brief contribution to your Lordships' debates, I shall limit myself to one general aspect only of this subject and illustrate, I hope, with one particular illustration.

The general point that I should like to raise concerns the extent to which considered planning policies—and I use the word "policies" in a full sense—based on the thinking to which the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, has just referred, could hope to replace the sometimes unconsidered and inconsistent operations that so often pass for planning control. I, like the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, am out for something more positive. Then, as a particular example of this general question, I should like to mention the uncertain situation that exists as between development, on the one hand, and preservation, on the other; because it seems to me that we are putting these two objects into separate compartments of thought and into separate compartments of action, and thus we are making it difficult for most people, and also I think for many local authorities, to take the view that preservation, whether it is of historic buildings or whether it is of a characteristic historic town or of urban open spaces, of the parks in our midst is in fact an integral part of development; it is not an opposite and opposing thing.

These are defects that have appeared, I think, especially in our own planning procedures; but of course it is true that the problems of living in cities are just as severe everywhere else and in some countries they are more acute than here. They afflict the absolutely new shanty towns of Africa and South America and Brazil; they afflict comparatively new metropolitan areas of Melbourne and Sydney in the wide continent of Australia, just as much as they do the ancient cities or civilisations of Rome or London. Urban growth, like the unprecedented upsurge of human population itself, is a world phenomenon. I think it is also true that conditions of living—or it is better to call them conditions of existence—in many urban areas are far worse than any we know. The Bowery in New York with its terrible picture of social outcasts, the favela in Rio de Janeiro, and certain districts of Calcutta, for example, can be quoted. These are all terrible concentrations of poverty where the urban condition is made worse by two factors: lack of employment and, worse still, lack of hope. At the same time, I think it ought to be said that in an old, intensively developed country like our own the wretchedness of the old and the poor and the homeless spread over numerous towns in industrial areas, many of them in decay, is likely to be less spectacular simply because it is more dispersed.

I suggest that our own urban crisis does not derive simply and solely from the multiplication of people and traffic in towns, nor from the fact that old building booms leave slumps of obsolescence in their wake. It derives especially from the fact that, in spite of everything that has been created in the past, by way of architecture and a magnificent human landscape in this country, and by astute and consistent estate management; in spite of all that; in spite of all that has been attempted in the last hundred years by way of public housing and welfare and services and by social controls; and in spite of all-Party measures for the better distribution of industry that occurred in the middle of the war and for the use of land, leading as they did to the brave Town and Country Planning Act, 1947—despite all that, we seem to be beginning to lose ground.

Although our urban history and achievements have been, and I think are, richer in human terms than those of most other countries, we are on the verge of surrendering a position of leadership in urban affairs for one that is—how shall I put it?—further down the line, in which we no longer anticipate change and move, as it were, to meet it, but struggle to keep up with changes that have already overtaken us. In other words, to put it in a sentence, our urban estate is in danger of running down. It is running down in quality, and, more important, it is running down in its productive capacity; and, of course, it has always been, and will continue to be, strictly limited in size.

May I give two examples to prove the seriousness of this situation? It seems to me, if I may say so with respect, that the Government are quite right to be taking steps to reduce offices and office employment in Greater London, more particularly in Central London. Nevertheless, it is a sad thing that they should have to resort to such a sudden jamming on of the brakes. If we had been better drivers we should have slowed down earlier, and we might have avoided damage of certain parts of our urban machine.

I must here admit an interest in this point, in that I am trying to advise the City of London how to redevelop the South-West corner of that ancient square mile. This corner has an enormous history, great attraction and very good public transport. It fits itself, therefore, specifically and has been used for office and commercial building for many years, and other uses at the moment are not economically viable, as the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, has just mentioned. Tall buildings in this area, because of St. Paul's, are, quite rightly, I think, ruled out, and it is noticeable that the building for The Times, for which the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, was largely responsible, met that requirement. Nevertheless, under these provisions the productivity of that corner of the city is likely to be very much impaired.

The dangers of planning solely by regulation and Statute are that it automatically generates an equal and opposite activity, just as expert, in finding, as they say, the way around it. May I quote an example from abroad? Beirut, in the Lebanon, is an historic city, set in a most historic countryside, and those of your Lordships who know it will, I think, agree with me that in recent years it has begun to show all the signs of being over-developed, over-trafficked, with a serious deterioration both in its living quality for its own inhabitants and in its attraction for the visitor. In Beirut a regulation was promulgated restricting development to two-thirds of the ground area of any property. The shrewd Lebanese soon learned how to sell the other third, and the new developers then developed two-thirds of that and sold the remainder. At the end of this exercise in private enterprise all that remained was a very small section of the property just large enough to hold the dustbin.

The rationing of office space is a case in which sporadic action, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, said, has been once again attempted to control the growth of London. But the factors of growth, as I think he also implied, have already taken place. They have taken root and they cannot now be eradicated without some disturbance of the national life. So we have to resort to pruning: we have to prune what has been planted; and in the process we may sacrifice some of the flowers, too. But at least this decision is a help in the making of planning decisions in that particular area of the country. One hopes that the pruning will be carried out by expert hands. Even so, I would contend that it is not in fact a policy or a permanent cure for urban inflation.

The second, and most serious, case is that which concerns development all over the country: the system of compensation and betterment, or whatever is put in its place and whatever it is called, which overshadows all planning decisions. It is a system which has broken down and has not yet been replaced. I think most people will agree that some such system is necessary to recoup from the increase of land values due to neighbouring development and to the granting of planning permission, sufficient funds to compensate for the reductions of value where land is kept open or becomes non-revenue producing, often in the public interest, and that this should operate in such a way as, first, to leave with owners of property the incentive to develop, and secondly, to bring into the market sufficient of that essential land for housing, both public and private, to which I shall refer in a moment.

Legislation is promised; but so far no device has been invented to fit our particular requirements exactly. Less idealistic and perhaps more thrusting countries are relying on powers of eminent domain or of compulsory acquisition, in one form or another, or they ask for outright cession of pieces of land whenever a large development plan, as for instance for a new township, is agreed. I am not suggesting that these methods are the right ones or would meet our situation, but I think they are more in scale with the prodigious task of urban renewal which all industrial countries are forced into, and I hope it may be possible for us, too, to devise a system to meet our needs in the same way.

Dr. Weaver, who is the Administrator of the Housing and Home Finance Agency, said some fairly strong words on this when setting the target in the United States of America for urban renewal projects. He said: In the remaining forty years of this century our urban population is expected to more than double"— he is talking now of the urban population only— from 125 million to 280 million by the year 2000. This means that in the forty-year period we have now entered"— because he was speaking a few years ago— we will have to provide homes and all of the facilities needed for urban employment and enjoyment equal to all that has been built to date in the entire history of our country. Our own rate of population growth, fortunately, is not as great as that. Even so, our estimated population of 70 million by the end of the century, in England, Wales and Scotland, has to be compared with one of less than 52 million in 1961, and less than 25 million a century ago. Many of our ideas about amenity, however, and what is proper for our environment, go back to the Britain of 25 million. This is where, so often, we are caught out in the process of double thinking: we are thinking of a Britain of 25 million and not one of 70 million. But this 70 million is in fact what we should be preparing for. New building will have to be provided, not at the older, more leisurely, pace, as it was in the days of the 25 million, but at a pace accelerated to catch up with the run-down and to meet the rising curve of our population.

Planning cannot alter the minimum target in terms of quantity. It can only prepare for it by setting the stage for industrialised building of various kinds. It can make all the difference, however, to the quality of that environment and also, I think, to its sensible distribution. This brings me to my particular illustration. The quality of our urban environment depends a great deal, I think, on our attitude towards preservation. Our attitude here is, may I say, ambivalent. Here, we are being forced by the pace of events to think more comprehensively than we did.

In 1944, the Town and Country Planning Act introduced the listing of individual buildings, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, then Minister of Town and Country Planning, appointed an Advisory Committee under Sir Eric Maclagan, of which I am at present the Chairman. Devoted work has been done for about twenty years by the Committee and by the investigators of historic buildings—the essential ground work for architectural scholars and for art historians to work on, and also the educational background for the rest of us, including, most especially, the local authorities. Many local authorities have no idea what an architectural heritage they possess. Some of them still seem slightly outraged when they see the list of historic buildings which appear in their locality. Fortunately, the Minister of Housing and Local Government is concerned at speeding the completion of the list and improving the situation. That is the sort of first scale of operations: to list individual historic buildings, ancient monuments and sites.

Then, in 1953, came the grants under the Historic Buildings Act. These, I should like to say in passing, may soon be inadequate because of the capital gains tax, and I think that again we shall have to look at our priorities. I am always struck by the fact that to put underground, in the interests of amenity, one mile of the Central Electricity Generating Board's 400 kilovolt overhead line costs perhaps a little over £1 million, but the total grant for all the historic buildings of England and Wales is less than half a million pounds. But we are moving now from the stage of the individual historic building to that which has come to be called building groups—"outstanding group value" is the term which we apply in a rather tentative way, not to single buildings, but to those groups of buildings which, in effect, make the character of our small towns.

It seems here as if special conditions—and perhaps even the relaxation of certain smaller regulations, like daylighting, the provision of garages, angles of obstruction and so on—should be considered under planning consent. This should apply to replacements, and it should apply also to buildings adjacent to an historic group. After all, these groups give character and quality to our older towns and villages, and there is not much sense in preserving the individual building if the new one makes a complete nonsense of it. The Department of the Ministry of Housing and Local Government is working on a study of this subject, and hopes to advise local authorities before long. It is significant that at present trees can be the subject of a preservation order, whether individually or as a wood, but the importance of the building group—which is the wood—has yet to be recognised.

I would add one word on why I believe that preservation policy is important. I think we shall find that the more imaginative, the more modern, architects and landscape architects in this country feel just as strongly about keeping the creative work of the past, if it can be possibly done under economic conditions, as do the out-and-out, fight-in-the-last-ditch preservationists. After all, the creative work of the past is like yeast in the baking of bread: it leavens the mass, provides variety and contrast, challenges comparison, and therefore keeps the architects on their toes. Many layouts have been improved out of all recognition when those who were responsible have studied, perhaps for the first time, the possibility of retaining certain features of old work in or beside the new schemes. The layouts thus become humanised; they are given a quality of continuity by preserving and restoring historic elements in the composition.

Although I should be the first to concede that no problems of new accommodation are going to be solved by the rehabilitation and preservation of old buildings, it seems to me that we could avoid a certain loss by using these old buildings in imaginative ways. I have only this week been 'in Suffolk and Norfolk with members of the Historic Buildings Council. We found one historic house which, under the Mutual Households Association, has been turned into 32 apartments and is now being lived in comfortably by retired couples and others, with their own furniture, enjoying what was originally a large country estate. We found another of very great antiquity which was being usefully, and indeed hilariously, occupied by a girls' school. Preservation will not increase the accommodation, but adaptation will often prevent some loss of it.

Then one comes to the third stage of preservation on what I can only call the regional scale. Historic towns and villages, in the geographical sub-regions of this country, ought surely to receive special consideration in determining the balance between preservation and new development, which is the essence of the plan that is now being drawn up. For example, resorts in the South-East with historic attractions (one can think of many; Deal is one; the old town of Hastings another) should not surely have to sacrifice their quality to a mass of uniformity—big angular blocks of flats quite out of scale with the old, sometimes mediaeval, buildings around them; and, outside the immediate centre, low-density houses lining and filling up the green approaches to the resort.

The need is for three things. The local authorities need some financial help, particularly in the regions which were severely damaged during the war and where the rates are inadequate to carry all the social burden which the local authority is shouldering. Secondly, they need an intelligent sub-regional plan. They need something on which they can be supported, if they say, "This is a little jewel in the mess of this very ordinary city, and we do not wish to reduce the whole area to a uniform standardised form of housing." Thirdly, they need trained advice—which is very scarce. They need advice which is independent and objective: not only independent of developers who want to excavate the soft spots and to build new work there, but independent also of the local authority which might be a little too zealous in making clearance areas throughout the control district.

Trained historic buildings officers and architects are very scarce, and the most expert will obviously have to work from the centre or with the larger authorities. The smaller towns will probably have to depend on a consultant, many of them shared between several authorities. It is important that these consultants should give independent and objective advice. The planning staff shortage is serious, but it would be enormously helpful if the job is seen to be creative and worthwhile and not simply a bureaucratic cul-de-sac. Many trained architects and planners who are now out of planning would come back into it if they could be so persuaded. Very few towns have the staffs to undertake town design in the comprehensive sense of the term, or to prepare briefs for developers, or to make authoritative reports on preservation. These three things are referred to in the recent report of the Royal Institute of British Architects. In France a special scheme of recruitment has been designed precisely to make it possible for each historic town to have this special kind of study prepared.

The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, referred in his speech to one of the difficulties in establishing this kind of advice as a basis for what I would call policy planning. He made the point that there is competition between towns to attract customers in various categories: industrial, commercial, shopping, and so on. He hoped that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government and the Board of Trade would act conscientiously as referees and give information to the public about the advice they were giving. I would support the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, in the point he made, that the Ministries should also have technical and objective assessors to give some stature and substance to the decisions which they have to make in such large numbers. It will have served a very useful function—and I apologise for having taken up so much of your Lordships' time to-day—if we can begin to think of all these problems: the giving of advice on development plans, the making of schemes within development plans, and the combination of preservation and development on bases which must of necessity go beyond the boundaries of individual local authorities.

4.20 p.m.


My Lords, it is a great pleasure and privilege to me to follow my noble friend Lord Holford and to congratulate him on his important maiden speech. He speaks in these matters with an authority, charm, erudition, unique in this country and, I think, rare enough in the world. I like to think that we shall have the benefit of hearing him in this House on these matters for several years to come.



Architects are often said to disagree with one another. This has led to a certain amount of quiet fun at public inquiries, one of the few pleasures of which is the discomfiture of expert witnesses. I have found this tendency to disagree growing—perhaps rather dully—less and less; and certainly to-day, though my noble friends Lord Llewelyn-Davies and Lord Holford and I speak from different parts of this House, we completely agree in our view on this immense subject. I think that architecture and planning are beginning to become critical subjects. They are ceasing to be what they are sometimes thought to be—fringe subjects dealing with the surface trappings of our civilisation.

The population explosion on one side, and our diminished resources on the other, have brought us into what the Victorians might have called "hard times"—hard but not hopeless. This nation, I think, is still a power house of ideas, even though one may sometimes wonder whether we possess the energy of the sixteenth century, the moral passion of the seventeenth century, the self-confidence of the eighteenth century or the wealth of the nineteenth century to put them into effect. In saying this I am thinking particularly of our reaction to the Buchanan Report. Your Lordships will remember that Buchanan offered two remedies, a double remedy. We had to spend a great deal to improve accessibility and the quality of urban life, and to the extent that we could not do this we had to discipline ourselves to accept a restriction on the use of the motor car, which was likely to be extremely inconvenient. The unanswered question is whether we possess the wealth of the first of these alternatives, or the moral courage of the second.

In circumstances of this kind leadership is the essence of the situation. So far Ministers of Housing and Local Government have issued a series of admirable technical circulars, but on this great question of feasibility, of what we can afford, we have very little guidance. "Just get in the queue and we will see" has been the tone in which local authorities have been addressed. This leads me to support very strongly the views of the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, on the absolutely overriding need for research. After all, we have a dilemma here. We have the alternative of bringing roads into the existing centres, or of taking the centres out to the roads. We have the alternative of servicing buildings which are there, such as shops in our cities, which we can do only at immense expense, or of taking these things out and putting them where we have the roads. There is a great deal to be said on both sides, but this delimma has never, so far as I know, been evaluated.

It has not yet been possible for us to know which is the more expensive of these two very expensive alternatives. Money, in fact, is now so vital a factor in this whole equation that it is truly a waste of time to try to plan realistically without knowing how much one has to spend. But even if we had this guidance—and, still more, if we are short of money—skill is of vital significance, and it is in this field that we are up against another of our recurrent crises in the problem of shortage of technical staff.

The Report by the R.I.B.A., to which the noble Lord, Lord Holford, referred a moment ago, has some alarming figures, of which I should like to quote just one or two. Of chief officers in charge of planning in 109 county boroughs, 58 have no planning qualifications. Of the 531 second-tier authorities—and, of course, these second-tier authorities, if one thinks of those with populations of over 20,000, include such cities as Cambridge, Winchester and Durham—449 have chief officers with no planning qualifications. I now come to staff. Of the staff working on planning in local authorities, less than half have any planning qualifications and only 4 per cent. are architects. Finally, in the 109 county boroughs there are only 80 architects working in planning. The result"— and here I quote directly from this same Report— is that the redevelopment of hundreds of towns, many of them of great beauty and attraction, both architecturally and historically, is proceeding bit by bit, without the help of the vision and skill of architects. The character of these towns"— Mr. Goss continues— is being ground away by foolish sighted 'improvements', and by the operations of commercial concerns authorities are in no position to resist. The cumulative effect formidable. It is rapidly disastrous. In so far as this situation results from a shortage of supply of qualified people, the professional institutions are doing all they can to remedy the situation, but we have to realise that this takes time. At the moment it takes ten years to produce an architect planner. But the problem is not only one of supply; there seems to be a shortage of demand. Qualified people, planning consultants, as the noble Lord, Lord Holford, has said, are not being fully used. Even the resources we have are not being either fully or effectively deployed. Here, too, I suggest that the Minister could help not only by exhortation. He could help by removing delegated planning powers from those authorities who do not possess qualified planning staff. He could help by looking askance at evidence given at public inquiries by officers with no planning qualifications.

We are here up against the vicious circle of local government planning being too dreary to attract the men and women it needs to escape from its own dreariness. The key to the prison door, I am convinced, lies in the hands of the chief officers. It is their leadership that counts and it is their ability and qualification to lead that is vital. Until we do break out we shall fail, and we shall go on failing, to protect the good things we have and to rebuild our cities and to build the new cities of which I am convinced we are capable.

4.29 p.m.


My Lords, we are most grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, for raising this all-important subject and for the most interesting speech which he made. He dealt with his subject very widely and, if I may say so, very wisely. I would also add my congratulations to those of the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, to the noble Lord, Lord Holford, on his maiden speech. He is, indeed, a great acquisi- tion to our ranks in your Lordships' House, and we all look forward very much to hearing from him whenever he feels inclined to take part in our deliberations. I must apologise to your Lordships that events make it necessary for me to leave the House early to-day, and I fear, therefore, that I shall be unable to remain during the later stages of our debate. I hope that your Lordships will forgive me, and accept my assurance that there is no discourtesy on my part, but merely a very old-standing engagement.

I wish to intervene in the debate, only briefly, to emphasise the need for the provision of hospital and ancillary services where new urban planning is undertaken. In the Ten-Year Plan for Hospital Development, which is still the cornerstone of Regional Hospital Boards' planning, the conception was of a district hospital to serve a catchment area of varying size according to population. I am not sure to what extent the original plan may have to be adapated and amended to meet the need of trends which have become apparent since the advent of the plan, but of one thing I am quite sure: that there is a vital need for joint consultation, and even for joint planning, between Regional Hospital Boards and local authorities in the areas where new urban development is to take place.

It would be, I think, the practice of Regional Hospital Boards to provide district hospitals amidst the population to be served, in order to provide case of travelling facilities for patients and staff; local amenities, such as shops and so on, for staff; easier access for general practitioners, and easier recruitment of staff; and also to enable money to be saved by the ready availability of essential services, such as water, gas, electricity, drainage and the rest. If all these things are done, my Lords, it seems to me that the hospital will then form a part of the local community—and I think this point was mentioned by the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, during his remarks.

In planning such developments, it is necessary to envisage such things as child care, maternity, day hospital facilities for old people and all the paraphernalia associated with the welfare of people of all ages. It would be necessary to provide a considerable area of land, so that all these functions could be arranged fairly centrally—and I would stress that staffing is a very acute and increasing problem.

Where urban developments are undertaken, new universities are sometimes planned, and in these cases I would suggest that the training of medical students in their clinical work should be provided for in the planning of hospitals locally. The question of staffing is all-important, and provision must be made at an early stage in planning to provide for accommodation for them. There was a good deal of criticism of the Regional Board of which I subsequently became chairman because, in one of the New Towns, a nurses' home was built before the hospital buildings appeared. But this was not so foolish as it seemed. The first thing needed at a hospital is a nurse. If you have no nurses, you cannot have a hospital; and if there is nowhere for the nurses to live, you will not get any nurses. So that a nurses' home is really the first essential. It is like providing a workshop for staff before you take on any early orders for quick delivery.

So, my Lords, in planning urban development I would ask for joint consultation at the outset among local authorities, Regional Hospital Boards, medical officers of health, boards of governors of teaching hospitals, university authorities, where appropriate, and general practitioners. I should like once more to express thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, and to ask that the points that I have raised receive the consideration of the Government speaker who is to reply to the debate—and I once more offer him my apologies for the fact that I shall have to leave before he speaks.

4.35 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to those of other noble Lords who have spoken before me to the noble Lord, Lord Holford, on his excellent maiden speech. I have heard him give talks and lectures in other circumstances. All of them I have looked forward to, and I have never been disappointed. Certainly—and I am sure all your Lordships will agree—we have not been disappointed to-day, and we look forward to hearing the noble Lord again on many occasions.

I, too, should like to thank the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, for having put this Motion down for to-day. It provides an opportunity—at least, I hope it will provide an opportunity—for the Government to tell us what their thinking is on this all-important subject. I shall concentrate on one point made by the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, and that is his remark that, although the cost of what is desirable is high, Her Majesty's Government must not go to the other extreme and set their sights too low. Any decision taken now as to the rehousing—or, indeed, the housing—of our expanding population is going to affect the quality of life of generations to come; and if the Government do not show the proper perspective and, as the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, said, the proper moral courage in this respect, then, as I said in a previous debate on this subject, our grandchildren will live to curse us.

The dramatic explosion of the motor car cannot be stopped, and any attempts to do so would be worse than those attributed to Canute—though I understand that this particular activity was put down to him erroneously. But the motor car is here, and the motor car must be coped with. I think, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, said, that it can be and must be a help and a pleasure, and it is up to the Government to see that that is what generations to come consider the motor car to be.

Now I do not quarrel with anything that the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, said about New Towns. The thing that worries me is the sort of patching-up that is going on now. In fact, we have two extremes taking place in London at the very moment. First, there is the patching-up of Victoria Street, where they are knocking down old buildings and building larger ones. The street is virtually the same size; the pedestrians' facilities are the same, and I doubt very much whether there will be any greater garage facilities than there are at present. This sort of patching-up will get us absolutely nowhere. The other, I do not say extreme, example—which I think is the one which must be aimed at—is the rebuilding of the centre of the City of London: the Barbican Plan. I was glad, too, to see from the Goverment's plan for Piccadilly Circus, which appeared the other day, that this, too, shows the sort of vision which will be needed to make life possible in the future—a situation in which the vehicle can be the help that it should be and not the damned nuisance which it is rapidly becoming because facilities are not being made available for its proper use.

In the debate last year, my noble friend, Lord Hastings, replied for the Government. I should like to quote from the speech 'he then made: 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."—[OFFICIAL REPORT, Vol. 256, col. 205, March 4, 1964.] That seems to me to have been a very fair statement; but what worries me are the statements which the present Minister of Transport has made lately, all of which add up to the one point: that less and less is going to be expended on this problem of roads outside the cities and, for the purposes of this debate particularly, on roads inside the cities. I make no apology for bringing into the foreground the position of the road programme, because it is quite clear from the forecasts that we shall have to cope with a vast number of vehicles and that in the process of doing this we must provide for the safety, the needs and the pleasures of our people. To my mind, the urban programme, in a very real sense, is the key to urban renewal, in the context both of actual progress and quantity and also, and this is even more important, in quality.

In his speech at Bristol on April 14 the present Minister of Transport said that the existing rate of growth of expenditure could not be expected to continue. Of course, it cannot. One's earliest mathematical games were based on the mess one got into by doubling-up. All the same, this attitude appears to continue the bad habit of comparing any new figure of expenditure with past spending rather than with present and future needs. I do not expect that the combined expenditure by the Exchequer and the local authorities will provide more than £100 million for new construction and major improvement of urban roads in 1970 as compared with the previous Government's estimate of £140 million. This was made clear in a circular from the Ministry of Transport to all local authorities, entitled Future Planning of Urban Classified Road Schemes, and dated April 30. This forecast a total expenditure on urban road schemes for the next eight years, between 1970 and 1978, of £820 million, of which £570 million would come from the Treasury. The Exchequer portion of this amounts to an average of virtually £72 million a year as against £68 million a year for the period 1965 to 1970.

It seems to me that the Minister has lived up, with a vengeance, to his promise not to double the road programme over five years. These figures show an increase of 5.7 per cent., not per annum, but after comparing the two periods one with another. This would appear to be the Government's reply to those local authorities who, to quote the Minister, had drawn up proposals "that bore little relationship to the economic facts of life." In towns and cities, roads and planning must be considered together. These local authorities that the Minister has castigated are planning authorities. Surely they know their own situation. There is a ray of light here, because the Minister of Housing and Local Government is reported to have said in Newcastle last week that some financial aid will have to be given by central Government to the local authorities for schemes of central development. But under the present structure, the local authorities meet a very substantial proportion of the cost themselves. Therefore, they have every incentive to be cautious; yet in the South-East Lancashire and North-East Cheshire Report they called for the expenditure of £300 million by 1981, and this was supported by all the local governments concerned.

The first White Paper issued by the Government said that public expenditure would be reviewed with the object of making increases in those fields where the social and economic benefits are clear. On the social side (and we are now talking about planning and people, which is to-day particularly important) it must be realised that the sort of conditions of which we can be proud will never come to pass in our cities without real expenditure in which the Government must play its part. The economic benefits to which the Government were going to direct their attention, can best be expressed in the negative: if our towns are not renewed in a context of planning which accepts the motor car, there is a real danger that the prosperity of our towns will fall. Forecasts show the possibility of there being 30 million cars owned by a population which is mainly urban. This is a social and economic fact of life which cannot be ignored.

It is no good saying that much of the use will be optional. If we get the sort of prosperity at which the Government claim to be aiming, then by far the greater part of personal expenditure will comprise such optional activities. If, in the long run, our urban areas are not allowed to cater for their citizens, established values will fall together with the ideal of civilised urban life and, as I said at the beginning, our children and our grandchildren will live to curse us.

4.48 p.m.


My Lords, we are grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, for having introduced this Motion and for the terms in which he has done so. He has given us what I regard as a brilliant exposition of the aims and objects of planning. I am sure his words will be long remembered, especially as they will be on record: and they will often be used and quoted. I should like also to congratulate my old associate. Lord Holford, on his maiden speech. I do not think I need say much about it; it was, as we should expect, a very fine effort. Naturally, on a subject which he has made his own and in which he is pre-eminent, we expected him to deliver a speech of this character.

I think that most of the speakers so far have been either technicians or experts on their subjects, and I hope that the noble Earl who has just spoken will not mind my referring to him as an expert on transport. I should like to discuss this matter on perhaps a more mundane level: the level of the ordinary man in the street, on whose behalf this proposed development is going to take place. We must remember that he comprises at least 80 per cent. of the population—that is to say 80 per cent. of the people of this country are living in towns—and the proportion is growing. The drift from the countryside is bound to continue. With the improvement in the techniques of farming, with mechanisation and growing productivity, there will be fewer and fewer people required to work on the land, and more will come to the towns. Therefore, as time goes on, we may expect, I will not say 100 per cent. urbanisation, but something pretty near it. So, when we are talking about the problems of urban development, we are talking, in fact, about the overwhelming section of the community.

The problem—and. I think that my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies put it fairly well—is that most of our towns are at least 100 years old; and they were built at a time when the population was less than half of what it is to-day; when it was more prosperous; when there was less mobility, and when living conditions were entirely different from what they are now. Although it would be wrong to say that there has been no development in these towns (in many cases, of course, there has been a good deal), it has not been redevelopment with a plan. an aim or an object: it has been piecemeal, and has depended on whether an individual could get possessoin of land in an urban area and thought it profitable to apply for redevelopment and on whether he was able to get planning permission. Redevelopment depended on these factors, and none of them is conducive to getting the comprehensive development of an area.

The urgency of the matter is that, in the meantime, a large number of people are living in uncomfortable, inconvenient and even unhealthy conditions, because the section of urban areas which has been the least developed is housing. This is a separate problem. I hope that my noble friend will say something about slum clearance, because a great part of urban development must comprise slum clearance and the improvement of housing conditions in the area. But apart altogether from that, our urban areas are tremendously congested, and we cannot house in proper conditions the same number of people who are living there at the present time. It is inevitable that in future there will have to be a large number of New Towns or of expanded towns.

My noble friend has talked about some of the assumptions upon which redevelopment has taken place. Here we are in a difficulty. For instance, my noble friend assumes, as most demographers do, that in the year 2000 our population may be something of the order of 70 million, assuming that the population is going to increase in the same way as it has increased in the past fifteen or twenty years. That is a pure guess. Demographers have been very wrong in the past and, if I may venture a guess, I think that they are going to be proved wrong again. I do not think that the population is going to increase at that rate. I know that I am holding out a brief for the future, and that I shall not be here to see whether it is carried out or not. I am fairly safe.

Of course, the population has increased enormously as a result of the fact that people are living longer; but there is a limit to the age to which people can live, at any rate in our present state of knowledge, and we have to take that into consideration. A large number of people live longer, and if they had not lived longer, they would have been dead and would not have been counted in the increase of population. This applies to old people, but it also applies to young people. My noble friend Lord Latham will remember that when we were on the L.C.C. together we saw the rate of infant mortality go down dramatically, from something like 30 per 1,000 to around 10 per 1,000. This must affect the increase in population. But once we have taken these factors into account to explain the increase in population, the fact remains that they will not necessarily go on. And there is something which perhaps I should not mention—birth control. Altogether, there are strong reasons for believing that the population will not increase at the same rate as it has done in the past few years.

The relevance of this is that it is difficult to make plans. If we were to make plans for redeveloping the centre of our towns in order to cater for this large increase in population, we might very well find that we were wrong. Therefore, the situation calls for the utmost degree of flexibility in the preparation of plans and for constant review. I agree very much with what the noble Lords, Lord Holford and Lord Esher, said about the shortage of qualified people to carry out such a constant review. It is not sufficient merely to prepare a survey and rest our plans on that. The basis upon which the survey has been made will be constantly changing, as it should change in a civilised community, and we must have persons readily available to keep the position constantly under review, and we must have the greatest flexibility in the preparation and amendment of plans.

Several noble Lords have referred to the question of getting the utmost publicity for the plans and the utmost support of the general public. One of our difficulties is that planning has become so complex that very few people understand it. Consequently, when a local planning authority advertises that plans can be seen at a certain place, and that anybody who wants to object to them can do so, not one person in 10,000 (I can say this from personal experience) ever goes to look at these plans; and of those who do, I doubt whether anyone would really understand them. The form in which plans are prepared is such that it would require one of the three experts who have spoken this afternoon to understand them while sitting in the office of a town hall within the time that is available. It may be that a really intelligent person, like the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, if he were able to take these plans home and spend the night on them, might make some sense of them. But it is really nonsense to say that the public, as the public, have an opportunity of seeing or understanding what the local planning authority is proposing, and of appreciating how it is going to affect even them, let alone affect the community as a whole.

Therefore, I think that the Ministry of Housing and Local Government ought to apply themselves to some means by which the plans of a local authority which are put before the public are made clear to them. How that is to be done, I do not know. These plans are bound to be complex; but, with due respect to the local authorities, I do not think that they need to be as complex as they are. I have spent sleepless nights trying to understand a number of them, and I think they could be simplified. But however simplified they may be, I think they are bound to be fairly complex, and there ought to be some way of making the public appreciate what it is the local planning authority are seeking to do in the plans they submit.


My Lords, perhaps the noble Lord will allow me to interrupt—I hesitate to do so—just to draw attention to one very good idea the Ministry have had. They have produced a town centre map, a non-statutory map, which is mentioned in the first of these bulletins. It is not a complicated document. It is quite simple and graphic, and it is intended, I think, to do this public relations job in the non-statutory form. Development on that line is, I think, exactly what we need. I do so agree with the noble Lord.


My Lords, before my noble friend resumes his speech, I wonder whether he would take note of the possibility of the extension of the idea of models. I know in a recent scheme in my old constituency of Salford a model was produced which was on show at the town hall. It was surprising the amount of interest shown in the model.


I think the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, is right, and so is my noble friend: a town map, non-statutory, would be useful, and so would a model. I think it may be possible to have some non-technical talks to citizens. There are a number of things which could be done. But I am sure that not enough people are taking interest in what is being proposed on their behalf, or are capable of doing so on the information that is at present available to them.

Let us suppose we can agree that we put up proposals for comprehensive redevelopment of our towns, and that they are sufficiently flexible to permit of changes in population character, new inventions and so on. Incidentally, in talking of new inventions, I may say to the noble Earl, Lord Gosford, that I wonder whether he is right in thinking that the number of vehicles will increase threefold in the next ten years. I would doubt it. What will be the effect of the helicopter—not necessarily those which we are making to-day, but the helicopters of the future? I am sure that in due course they will have a big effect on the movement of population and of goods. However, I am merely illustrating once more the danger of making plans on the basis of our existing information and the vital need for flexibility.

Supposing we have our plans, so far as they go; there then comes the question of implementation. In most cases they will involve the compulsory acquisition of land. I am sure everyone of us would agree that this is a function with which only the local planning authority can be entrusted. There have been suggestions that in certain cases the local planning authority should acquire the land compulsorily and then sell it to private developers—I think the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, mentioned something of that sort. But I am sure there would be great resentment on the part of the public if A's land were acquired compulsorily and then sold to B in order that he might make a profit on it. I do not think the public would accept that. I think, therefore, that you have to have a system (I am not talking Party politics at the moment, although I will in a few minutes) whereby the freehold of land should be owned by the community, and that any disposal of it should be by way of leasehold.

For the reasons that have already been given—namely, the shortage of skilled staff and the shortage of money—I think that in many cases the redevelopment of urban areas will be beyond the means of the local authority. Moreover, I think it is right that there should be a mixture of private enterprise and public enterprise. It is right that private enterprise should have the opportunity of taking part in redevelopment. Furthermore, from the financial point of view, redevelopment will involve an outlay of large sums of money, upon which interest will have to be paid, which will not be immediately productive. It might be many years before any revenue is obtained for the community out of the large expenditure incurred.

It has been suggested in certain quarters that the Government should relieve the local authority of interest charges until such time as the scheme becomes remunerative. There is also a suggestion that local authorities should be given a grant towards the cost of redevelopment. I should be grateful if my noble friend Lord Mitchison could give us some idea as to whether the Government are prepared to consider these matters. But, in any event, the large scale of a good deal of redevelopment that is necessary will make it desirable that private enterprise should participate; and although I know that a number of local authorities are making use of private enterprise to assist them in redevelopment, I hope they will be allowed to do so to a greater extent than they are at the present time.

The sort of basis which I think is fairly general in those cases is that a lease of the land which the private developer is going to develop is granted on terms which will allow for increases in the value of that land as time goes on. That is in some cases by way of rent reviews at certain periods, and in other cases by active participation by the local authority in the profits of the scheme. Of course, it must be remembered that the local authority will not be able merely to lease the land at the price at which they acquire it. They will need to spend a good deal of money on unproductive and un-remunerative enterprises. Most of the towns we are thinking of are woefully short of open space, and a substantial amount of open space (if it is to be in any way equivalent to the open space in the New Towns, it will be substantial) will have to be provided. Playing fields, and so on, are certainly not remunerative open space. All that should come out of the profits which will eventually be derived from that portion of the redevelopment which will be remunerative.

We are up against another difficulty here which we must face, and that is the question of the existing shopkeeper, because a good deal of the redevelopment will consist of redeveloping shops. What are we to do with him? After all, he is a member of the community. We do not want to drive him out of business, but there is a danger that the rent he will be required to pay will be far too high for him. This is a problem which we have to face, and it may well be that we may, at any rate for a certain time, have to make special provision for existing shopkeepers who are being displaced as the result of redevelopment. It is no good talking about benefiting the community if you are going to do it at the expense of throwing a large number of people out of business. That is not benefiting the community at all, and we have to allow for it as part of the cost of the scheme. We have not done this in the past: we have let the shopkeeper fend for himself.

There is another aspect. Redevelopment cannot be done all at once. It will be done in stages, and it may take twenty, thirty or forty years. It does not matter so long as you know where you are going in the end and you have your objective; you may take it in its stride. But even while you are carrying out the redevelopment, certain areas may be affected. In my own experience I have come across a good many shopkeepers whose business has just gone because the population has gone, and they may be years waiting for the rebuilding of the area when perhaps they will be prosperous again. But what are they to do in the meantime? As things are at the moment, they have no claim against anybody. I find it very difficult to visualise what can be done, but if it were possible to treat those cases of loss of business due to redevelopment as part of the cost of the scheme, I do not think anyone would begrudge it. These are problems we have to face if we are to be serious about redevelopment, and I hope that we shall face them.

I am afraid I am not following my own precepts again, but there is one other thing which I think it is most important to mention, and that is that we are talking of revivifying our obsolete areas. These are particularly in the North and North-East of England, and in Scotland. People are drifting away from those areas and going to more attractive places, from the point of view both of finding employment and of getting better living conditions. The previous Government encouraged and the present Government are encouraging industry to go to these areas, and with a certain measure of success. But one of the difficulties in getting industry to go is the unattractiveness of the areas to which they are going. They must be made much more attractive, both from the point of view of the people you want to attract to the area, and from the point of view of the people who are living there already. They must be made as attractive as the towns in the South. Therefore, we must not be content with providing factories; we have to provide other amenities such as are required to-day in an ordinary prosperous and civilised community—open spaces, concert halls, meeting places, and so on. Unless we do so, we may well find that all the efforts we are making to attract industry to the North-East and to the other areas of unemployment are fruitless because people will just not want to live there.

The important person here is not the worker, but the housewife. She is the person who goes down and decides whether they are going to live in that area or not; she is the person who decides whether they are to come away, and in this she is thinking not only of herself but of her children as well, and quite rightly. Therefore, we have to think of the housewife, and we must provide not only the things I have mentioned but good shopping in these areas. That does not come into the scheme. We are thinking merely of factories, which is a very narrow point of view. We must have the redevelopment of the town as a whole, and make it attractive. We cannot do this by means of town planning. I hope that the managers and the bosses will also live in the towns, and not commute to desirable places 25 miles away from the factory, as they normally do. We want to make it attractive to them as well as to the workers in the area.

I promised noble Lords opposite that I was going to be political, and I wish to conclude on this point. All I have been saying will be useless unless we have a land policy. Land costs are too high, and are growing. The noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, referred to this. We shall find that all our schemes for urban development will come to an end on the rock of the high cost of land. We shall have an opportunity of discussing this subject in more detail, but I would urge noble Lords opposite to give serious consideration to this point. This is a matter which they tended to neglect in the past. I have talked about the high cost of land on a good many occasions, and the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, very courteously ignored it and said nothing—and I do not blame him; he was not in a position to say anything. The fact was that the Members of the Party opposite had nothing to say on this problem of the high cost of land.

Now we shall have something to say. It may be that our scheme is not altogether satisfactory, and I hope that we shall welcome constructive criticism. But we want to do something to bring down the cost of land, not only in order to carry out redevelopment, but in order to enable the ordinary person who cannot live in a subsidised house—and we cannot all live in them—either to buy a house or rent a house within his means. Generally speaking, that is impossible to-day. So I would urge on the Government to get on with the job of dealing with the high cost of land as quickly as they can.

That is all I want to say, and I must once more apologise for the length of my speech, but I feel that this is one of the most important matters that we have had before us during the present Parliament. As I have said, it affects the vast majority of the people of this country. We have it within our power, if we make a beginning in a sensible and constructive way in the redevelopment of our towns, to bring about greater happiness to our people than in almost any other single measure that I can think of.

5.20 p.m.


My Lords, after hearing the speech of my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies I realised how little I knew about the vast range of this subject, although I have been concerned with large building and civil engineering projects for some thirty years. My noble friend referred to the need to furnish an intellectual armoury in planning our future cities. I would not only support his views but would welcome any concrete ideas from him, which I feel sure he must have. I should be grateful if, in his reply at the end of this debate, he would give us a brief outline, a sort of specification, of the type of intellect and personality required to fill the great responsibilities such people will carry.

There is no doubt that the whole pattern is changing rapidly. The architectural profession is being merged with the planning officer, the sociologist, the structural and building engineer and the economist. My noble friend's suggestion regarding the need for massive direction of research at universities finds a very ready response in my mind. And I would add, the need for effective liaison between the universities, the professions and the building industry. I referred in my speech on agriculture to this lack of communication, this lack of liaison. It seems to spread in all sorts of ways in all sorts of industries these days. But here we can start from the beginning instead of trying to catch up.

While it is true that decisions on major planning especially are political decisions, the carrying out of those plans will be in the hands of local government and sub-regions, entirely dependent upon the capacity, imagination and drive of the local planning officer and his committee. These tasks will become more difficult each year. There is therefore a need for a new conception in statutory regulations. We have excellent reports from time to time, but no statutory regulations to enforce them.

A typical example is the Parker Morris report, which recommends minimum standards for the building of houses. The Ministry of Housing and Local Government said quite clearly that neither local authorities nor private builders are required to build to Parker Morris standards. The Ministry will grant permission to build if the local authorities so wish, but have no power to reinforce a report which has already been endorsed. In a recent circular the Minister said it seemed to him that all authorities should now be moving further in the direction of adopting Parker Morris standards. More "teeth" are required in the regulations. Builders have to work in the grooves which pay, however frustrated the more enlightened among them feel when they see shoddy work getting away with it. I have had many years of personal experience of this business, and it makes one sick. I have strayed in my speech, but. I have done so deliberately.

The new towns of the future and the redevelopment of the old towns will be for the purpose of spreading industry and enabling our people to lead a fuller life. The noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, referred to growths of 100 per cent. in the city areas in fifty years. The cities, as such, may or may not grow, as my noble friend Lord Silkin said, but the social status and cultural needs of our people will certainly grow, in comparison to those of to-day. We must therefore come down to earth once more to discuss such relatively unimportant matters as improved insulation in houses—and that is getting down to earth with a bit of a bump, I am afraid.

We can have the most perfect layout for an urban and industrial development, with adequate transport, utility services and all the social and cultural activities catered for in artistically designed building, yet, because of an inadequate study of efficient insulation, life in what might otherwise be ideal conditions is turned into hell. Of what use are park-like surroundings when one is tormented by the neighbour's "telly" and his snoring at night? The number of people who were content to put up with these inconveniences even twenty years ago is rapidly decreasing. So there is a great need for the intellectual armoury for which my noble friend is pleading.

Between now and the time when we can put these ideals into practice, before implementation is possible, much can be done to improve the status of planning officers. As a body they have no easy task. We need a far more dynamic approach to this function. Most planning officers are dedicated and competent men. I have met a few. There are others who are failures. I think it is time that this type of local government officer was given the sack. The competent and conscientious should be given more power, and should not be hampered by planning committees, composed of excellent members, perhaps, but all too often limited in experience when it comes to handling big projects. How can you visualise big projects when you are used to dealing only with, perhaps, £1,000 mortgages?


My Lords, is the noble Lord suggesting that we should do away with local authorities?


My Lords, I am not doing anything of the sort. I am hoping to strengthen them. If we are going to strengthen the local authorities, we must strengthen the authority of the officers who represent local authorities.

The main objection to the present planning Act is that it is largely negative, instead of positive. Planning authorities can, and nearly always do, tell us what we cannot do. They can rarely tell us or advise us what to do. Planning controls should be more positive, and standards set for different regions and sub-regions to the design idiom which is most suitable or already exists in the region. There is no reason why some fifty designs should be produced encompassing all the standards required. In other words, planning has also to be creative and to be the product of political thinking and specialised training. Whether we develop our towns on the gridiron system or as clusters of villages, we are now at the crossroads where an entirely new concept of thinking must prevail. My Lords, the subject of this debate is so vast in range that one can deal only with one or two facets, and, speaking only for myself, I would stress especially the need for education in this matter. I am indeed grateful to my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies for introducing the subject.

5.29 p.m.


My Lords, I should like to apologise to the House and to my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies for being rather late in coming to this debate. First I was held up by business, and secondly I was held up by the chaotic traffic conditions in London, which are gradually becoming worse and worse. I am very glad my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies has put down this Motion. I should like to say a few words about London, the city I know best of all, because it seems to me that whilst there is a wish to plan development, this is being carried out in a very piecemeal fashion, with the change in the capital from what was until recent times largely a Georgian and Victorian city to what will become in the future a city with a great many tall buildings.

I am not at all against tall buildings. In fact, if they are well sited I think they can be most impressive. Furthermore, there is a need for tall buildings in London. With the increasing pressure on space and land, tall buildings are, in fact, the only hope if we are going to include the population which London must hold and which is increasing continually the whole time. On the other hand, such buildings as we have had have not, for the most part, been well sited and I think this is one of the problems that should be tackled in the future. For example, there is the Hilton Hotel at the bottom of Park Lane, which I think is an impressive building on its own, but it is wrongly placed. In contrast to that, I would say that the Stag Development at Victoria is well planned. The buildings are planned as a group, and I think look impressive.

So I would submit, first, that the place to put up tall buildings, the localities where they should be placed, are the ones which need development as a whole. There are many large areas in London which were built at bad periods architecturally and where not much money was spent on the buildings—districts which one might describe as "scruffy". Those are the ones where the tall buildings should be placed and grouped as a whole.

Moreover, I think it is most important that we should preserve large parts of London which are impressive architecturally and are good examples of the architecture of previous ages. I am thinking particularly of parts of London where a great deal of Georgian architecture remains, early 19th century, and indeed a good deal of Victorian architecture as well. These, I think, should be scheduled and preserved as a whole. I would submit that it is no use putting a preservation order on the odd house here and there and then pulling down the rest of the houses in the neighbourhood and putting up buildings of quite a different style.

What we should do is to preserve a whole area. The French Government are doing that in Paris. For example, the two islands in the Seine and the houses on both banks surrounding them are preserved as a whole. A great deal of the Marais quarter is preserved. Most of the finer parts of the Left Bank, the whole of Montmartre and squares like the Place des Vosges are preserved in their entirety.

Compare that with the kind of mess that there is now in Berkeley Square. I agree that there has been a preservation order on a few of the remaining houses on the West Side, but they have little significance when they are surrounded by a motley of buildings of different kinds, heights and designs on the other sides of the Square. In fact the Square is absolutely ruined. In contrast to that, I would say that Grosvenor Square is rather better, because although the buildings are not frightfully interesting, at least an attempt has been made there to plan the Square as a whole, and when it is complete I think it will be quite impressive.

Another good example is the Regent's Park terraces, which I believe, mainly owing to my noble friend Lord Attlee, have been preserved in their entirety. They are probably the finest examples of that type of architecture in London, indeed probably in the whole country. I think it is greatly to the credit of my noble friend Lord Attlee that they are still in existence. Another example would be Belgrave Square. I think it would be extremely bad if any part of Belgrave Square were touched—not only the Square, which is extremely impressive but most of the area surrounding it, which is one of the few districts in London which has been virtually untouched, mainly because it is part of the Westminster Estate. It is most impressive architecturally, and, I would submit, should be preserved as a whole, together with a great deal of South Kensington, streets such as Queen's Gate, which was planned by the Prince Consort, with fine surrounding squares; a great deal of old Hampstead, Dulwich Village, Chiswick Mall along the river and Hammersmith Terrace. The whole of that part, from Hammersmith Bridge to Chiswick House, should be scheduled as a whole; Cheyne Walk, and not only Cheyne Walk but Cheyne Row; and Glebe Place, which is most interesting as an example of the type of houses and studio houses where painters lived at the beginning of this century, and indeed still live.

So I feel that we should take these two courses. First of all, we should schedule districts for preservation; then we should concentrate on developing the districts which are neither interesting architecturally nor satisfactory so far as living conditions are concerned, in a modern way, and build groups of tall buildings which are properly co-ordinated and planned and could be immensely impressive, like the skyscrapers of New York. At the bottom of these buildings there should, of course, be garages. Not nearly enough garages are being built in the basements of modern buildings in London. It seems absolutely extraordinary that this is not a statutory requirement. I realise that there are probably certain problems with regard to compensation in areas where preservation orders are made; but I feel that this is not insurmountable, and if the French Government can tackle it, I cannot see why our Government should not do so as well.

One further word. I hope that consideration will be given to making London and our great cities rather more attractive, and certainly less dangerous for pedestrians. I walk a great deal in London, and I know just how dangerous and hazardous it is to get across the road. More subways should be built, there should be more zebra crossings, more with lights, and so on. Traffic has been speeded up, due, I would agree, to action taken by the former Government. It has been speeded up tremendously. That process has been carried on by the present Government. This has been at the expense of the pedestrian, and I would submit that urgent consideration must be given to this problem, so that once again London can become the attractive city for the stroller that it was in olden times.

5.40 p.m.


My Lords, this debate was commenced by a remarkable speech, a speech which not merely dealt with the theory of planning but which applied that theory to immediate problems. One of the advantages of this House is that it can listen to speeches of that character. I cannot imagine that speech being delivered in another place. One of the contributions which this House can make to political life is that it can survey problems in this broad way without the partisanship which sometimes emerges.

My noble friend Lord Silkin said that this had been a debate of technicians and experts. But it has been no worse for that. I do not know whether the last speaker would call himself either a technician or an expert, but he contributed something which is tremendously valuable in planning—the contribution of sensitiveness to beauty. Certainly in all our planning—and sometimes one feels a little frightened when one see modern planning—the preservation of the beauties of the past ought to retain a very important place in the priorities. I hope that the Government, in their consideration of planning, will bear prominently in mind what my noble friend has said.

I am not a technician or an expert, and I am taking part in this debate to-night only because I think I can contribute to a consideration of planning in relation to one town which I know well, a town which in its problems is typical of many of those which planners have to face. My noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies, in his opening speech, referred to the fact that new towns were being developed on the outskirts of London. I should like to illustrate the problems of planning by examining one of those towns. The town of Slough is perhaps familiar to Members of this House more for the reason that it restricts motor traffic as it passes through the town than for other reasons.

My first contact with Slough was way back in 1910, when the newspaper on whose staff I was serving gave me an assignment to Slough. The station then was not more than a junction for Windsor. The place itself consisted of three small villages divided by fields and woods, Chalvey, Upton and Slough. My next memory of it was in the later years of the First World War and immediately after, when one travelled from Paddington to the West and saw miles of the mechanical junk of the war distributed on each side of the railway lines. A very adventurous man bought that junk and also bought the land on which it was accommodated. Thus began the first trading estate in the whole of this country, the Slough Trading Estate.

One must acknowledge at once that that first estate built after the First World War cannot be compared with the modern estates, either in their planning or in their beauty, as we know them to-day. But as a result of the construction of that trading estate, those three little divided villages became a progressing town. One had pouring into Slough workers from South Wales and Scotland, from the North-East coast and from Belfast; people who were unemployed in their own territories concentrated on the new trading estate and upon its industries. In consequence that town is probably one of the most cosmopolitan towns in the whole of Britain. It has so often reminded me of the jerked-up towns in America, with their populations from different parts of Europe and the world. One has now had added the immigrant population, which numbers nearly 6,000.

How does the advance of that town in that way, which is typical of some other towns, merge into the picture of planning which we must now have in our minds? It has necessitated housing. Great housing estates were begun first by the trading company itself and were later taken over by the local authority in its developments. It is near to London and takes overspill populations from the London County Council at Langley and Britwell. Because of its nearness to London we have a commuter population, too. The rapid train service to Paddington, which traverses the 23 miles from Paddington in 25 minutes by express train, has brought an expanding commuter population.

That town is illustrative of many towns in the problems of planning which have resulted from that kind of development. My noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies remarked on the Green Belt around London. But the Green Belt is not only around London; it is around some of these New Towns which have been developed. Because of that there is very little room for the expansion of housing which is necessary. In the case of Slough there are now only 80 acres left for further residential building. There is the most appalling overcrowding because of the concentration there of workers from all over Britain and because of our expanding industries—industries which are expanding because they are dynamic and adventurous. Sometimes when, by mistake, I turn on the commercial television I find that three out of four of the advertisements are from firms which are stationed in Slough. Therefore, one has this problem of a town which has not been planned but which has just grown; a town with industries which are expanding, with populations which cannot be housed and, added to the other problems, a commuter population. That is one of the first problems which any Government who are giving their mind to the problem of planning have to consider. I accept at once that it is part of the whole problem of Southern England. It is a problem of the distribution of industry and one anticipates, with hope, the plans by the Government for such redistribution, which alone can solve the problems of towns which are limited in that way.

I want to emphasise very strongly indeed the problem which my noble friend Lord Silkin raised, when he spoke about the relationship of land prices to this situation. Because there is house hunger in Slough and towns like Slough, there is land hunger. Prices just rocket. The price of land for our housing estates has leapt by five times in as many years. Three years ago, for a site in the High Street of Slough—this will seem incredible, but I ask any of my colleagues to test it—the local authority had to pay at the rate of £1 million an acre to acquire land. Two years ago a site in the High Street of Slough cost the local authority £2 million an acre. I am very glad that our Government are to begin to deal with this land racket, this infamy that private ownership of land should mean that landowners grow rich by the service of the community. Their prospective legislation will deal only with prices in the future. I think there is a good deal to be said for the policy of taxation of land values with which the Liberal Party has been associated for many years, as a supplement to the proposals of the Government. One cannot begin to deal with the problem of urban planning in overcrowded towns like Slough, unless one demands that the increased value of land which is due to community activity should pass to the community, and not into the private pockets of the fortunate persons who are the landowners.

I want to illustrate this by the fact that in this town which I am describing there is now a great scheme for a town centre. My noble friend Lord Royle put to my noble friend Lord Silkin that it was of advantage, when there were town planning centres, that there should be models in view. We had our model in the High Street of Slough for some time and thousands of people saw it. My only criticism of these models, and indeed of architects' patterns, would be that they tend rather to exaggerate their beauty. They tend rather to exaggerate what the features will be like when they are completed.

I cannot begin to see the end of this problem. Slough Council proposes to take over the whole of the centre of the town. It proposes to make it into a great pedestrian shopping area, very beautiful in design. The cost of it would be beyond computing because of the high cost of land. It is to be an area where there will be the large shops. The rents of those shops will be beyond the reach of any of the small shopkeepers whom my noble friend Lord Silkin mentioned. I am not sure that he suggested the right solution to that problem, which was that some financial assistance should be given to those small shopkeepers. I very much doubt, much as I regret it, whether the great town centre there is going to offer much future for the small shopkeeper. Where the small shopkeeper is very much needed is in the housing estates, in the localities, and there I should like to see some priority in the allocation of accommodation given to the small man who might serve in a very intimate and human way the people who live there. Let me just say to my noble friend Lord Silkin that I hope that the Co-operative movement will have a very large share of these new town centres.

The second phase of the new town centre in Slough is for there to be a cultural and social centre where there will be accommodation for concerts, for exhibitions, for entertainment, and for social welfare and voluntary organisations of every kind. I believe that in the planning of towns we have to consider not only where the factories should be and where the shopping areas should be; a very prominent part of it should be for cultural and social development and for voluntary organisations.

May I just mention another matter which has emerged in the kind of town which I have described, and that is the problem of transport, a problem that it seemed almost impossible to solve in a town like Slough. It has been relieved by the M.4, and I congratulate the previous Minister of Transport on initiating that road. My only regret is that where it relieves the town of Slough from Maidenhead to Langley it is only a two-lane route, which is dangerous, because there are lorries on one lane, which obviously slows down the traffic. But there is another problem here, and it is also a problem of other towns in the neighbourhood of large cities. Slough is a meeting point between the London Transport Executive and a private transport company, and there is clearly great need for co-ordination of our whole transport system if it is to serve when there are both public and private transport.

There is one other matter that I want to urge very much on the Government from my own knowledge of this town, and that is that in the new housing estates priority should be given to community centres. There is the Langley housing estate and the Brightwell housing estate of the London County Council. I was associated over the years with trying to get a community centre in Langley. In the last resort we had to fall back on coming to an agreement with a brewery company, that there should be a community centre attached to its public house.



I welcome that, rather than nothing; but it is not the best solution. I do not happen to be a Nonconformist, and I do not happen to be teetotaller, but there are some, and they are engaged in valuable social activity. What I very much want to see is a community which is not prepared to have its centre as a "hanger-on" of a public house, but which has its own community centre in which it takes pride. Yes, let it have its bar—I hope very much it will have its bar—but let it be something for which the community itself, which has described it as a community centre, should have the ultimate responsibility.

There is one other problem concerning housing in these towns and that is the schools. In a sense, these towns which have developed late have an advantage. They have got magnificent school buildings. My son passed his eleven-plus, and went to a fairly well-known grammar school, which I visited. He will go on to the university—he goes there in October—and he gets his grant then. It was a well-known grammar school, but compare it with the architecture, the facilities and the equipment of a modern secondary school in Slough. It is not to be compared: beautiful buildings, beautiful equipment and laboratories well equipped. I look forward to a time when we shall have in Slough a college just as famous as the college in another part of my old constituency—Eton. We have the schools there. Those schools could be made a part of a non-segregated system, with each of those magnificent buildings directed to particular tendencies of education. In this way emerging towns and the new towns could be made almost models of what democratic education should be in this country.

My Lords, the last point with which I want to deal is the problem of boundaries. Take Slough. There is the L.C.C. estate of Langley inside and the L.C.C. estate of Britwell almost entirely outside. Slough, because of its land hunger, has itself to build a housing estate outside at Waxham. These are obviously one area from the point of view of planning, and no doubt in time they will become a county borough. What we have to face at this time is this fact: that these towns may be expanded as county boroughs in order that there may be a complete co-ordination, but the withdrawal of these industrially developed areas from the county is going to mean a loss to the county. It is going to mean a loss in a heavy contribution to rates; it is going to be a loss in the contribution to the cost of education in rural areas—and some of the village schools are those which most need development. Therefore, we have to find some way in which we can combine both these urban developments in areas which are naturally one town, so that they are co-ordinated with a regional development, through which they will contribute to the needs of the wider areas.

My Lords, I do not apologise for having indicated in this debate the problems of one town which I know. I believe one should speak about problems of which one has some knowledge; but I do so also because I believe that Slough's problem is typical of the problems of many towns in this country.

6.5 p.m.


My Lords, during this debate we have repeatedly thanked my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies for having given us the opportunity to discuss this subject. We owe him particular thanks for having focused our attention upon the vital problems which lie before us; because we have been concerned to-day not only with discussing the general problems of urban development, but also with discussing these problems in relation to what we have to do to-day and what we shall have to be doing in the next few years.

As my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies pointed out, ideas about town planning have changed. I suppose some of the earlier ideas came from Ebenezer Howard and Patrick Geddes, and were largely summarised by Lewis Mumford in his famous book, The Culture of Cities. I think it would be fair to say that these ideas were based on a dislike of cities. Frankly, I love cities, and I would feel, much as Doctor Johnson did, that when a man is tired of London he is tired of life. There is no question that the cities contribute most in the way of cultural development and all the things that make life exciting, and so our concern must be for the preservation and development of cities.

I hope that my noble friend Lord Silkin will forgive me for pointing out what I think is an error in his argument about the development of population. He has said that we cannot predict population increases. This, of course, is true over a long period, but it is reasonably accurate to do it over short periods. We also need to bear in mind that the population increase in this country alone has been tremendous in the last 150 years. I think we have gone from about 9 million to 52 million, so that the increase has been quite sensational.

The present rate of development is not based upon the fact that more people are living to a ripe old age, but on the fact that more people are outliving infancy and are reaching the age at which they can reproduce. If the number of children produced in a family exceeds two, then, unless there is a very heavy deathrate, we shall almost inevitably have a steadily rising population. It is only if the number of children per family is less than two there will be a decrease in population.


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord this question? If all this is so simple, if one can forecast almost mathematically what the population is going to be in a short period, why have we gone wrong in the last ten years?—because we have gone very wrong.


I do not pretend, my Lords, to be a demographer. I do not claim to be able to give exact predictions. All I am saying is that an increase in population will occur inevitably if the number of children per family is in excess of two and the deathrate is low. The death rate acts as a regulator, but not as the determinate factor.

I do not pretend that one can predict, but I do say that we have to make these predictions. The whole of our school-building programme depends upon making predictions over a period of at least fifteen years. The whole present policy with regard to hospitals and universities equally depends upon these predictions; and if we are not prepared to act upon these predictions, then I do not know how we are prepared to act at all. It seems to me that either we accept them as being reasonable guides or we sit back and do nothing. I should hope that we accept them as reasonable guides. I am not going to pretend that the sort of prediction one can make by extrapolation from the present birthrate, for instance, of the growth of world population over a large number of years, is going to be valid. If you do this you get the astonishing result that at the present rate of growth in world population in 580 years there will be only one square yard per person of the surface of the earth. And this is a rather sobering thought.

I do not think that one can plan on that basis; but I think we can and must plan on what we know at the moment, over the next period of twenty years or so. Here we must realise that we should never think of planning cities or towns, or the country, for 100 years. We are concerned always with the next period of 20 years or so. If you look at the cities and the country you see this change going on all the time. The noble Lord, Lord Brockway, called attention to what has happened in Slough. This has been going on in other parts of the country as well as in Slough, but Slough happens to be one of the places with one of the most sensational developments.

I would entirely agree with what the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, said about the importance of planning for the people. And I think my noble friend Lord Silkin said the same. This is quite essential. We are concerned with planning for people to live in cities. Cities are there because they are excellent places for people to be in, not because they are beautiful things to look at. That may come as well if we are fortunate; but the important thing is that they are good places to live in. It is essential that in our planning we remember that we are trying to preserve the city as a good place to live in. One of the actions which I think is entirely opposed to the proper development of a city is to put a main trunk road through the centre of the city; because even if it is done skilfully it still sets up a barrier between one half and the other. One need only go to some of the American cities to see how efficiently they have succeeded in cleaving a city in half and making the heart of the city almost uninhabitable. In this respect a city like Los Angeles is notorious. In fact, it is scarcely a city; it is a vast, swarming village, almost like the Indian Maidan. It just spreads out; it covers about 2,000 square miles and does it in an utterly meaningless and smoggy way.

Even a city like Pittsburgh, which has done a magnificent job of reconstruction, has nevertheless made the mistake of allowing a main highway to run right down and across the river just where the Monongahela and the Allegheny meet, just at the very point where on this famous triangle one ought to have something magnificent. They have created something which is fairly good; but how much better it would have been if they had not driven the highway clean through it! There is an interesting consequence of what they have done. I shall quote from a book which has come out recently by Jane Jacobs, The Death and Life of Great American Cities, I must say that I do not agree with a lot of her approach to it, but I think she appreciates that a city is worth preserving. In this book she says that someone who was investigating the use of space in Pittsburgh went down to this famous golden triangle and on a warm September afternoon stated Mellon Square in down-town Pittsburgh contained too many users to count. Mellon Square happens to be rather a typical old fashioned sort of square— But that same afternoon, during a period of two hours, only three people—an old lady knitting, one bum and an unidentifiable character with a newspaper over his face—used the park of the down-town Gateway Center."— which is where this famous roadway runs.

In other words, people do not go to those places which are laid out as beautiful parks but with no meaning to them, in an unattached sort of way. They go to places where life is going on. For the same reason, one will find Piccadilly Circus crowded all the time. People go there largely because it is a centre of things and they like to see life going on. So, when we are concerned with the development of cities we must be very careful about this idea of precincts, in which we surround a certain type of activity by a sort of moat and prevent anything else from coming into it. The essence of a city is that it is diverse and mixed-up.

For instance, in the centre of a big city you can find the small public house; you can find the place where you can buy odd buttons which you cannot buy anywhere else; you can find the place where you can get certain types of doorknob or door handles, or whatever it may be that you will not get elsewhere. Because, when you go into the ordinary store they are concerned with selling certain standardised articles. The essence of a great city is the diversity it provides, the way in which a human being can live; and we are concerned all the time with this question of human beings. That is why we love our cities.

May I refer to just one other point? I will be brief. If we are going to do anything about this problem, we cannot wait. This is not something on which we can wait until we have a perfect scheme. There is no perfection in city development. Thank heavens! I have never yet seen a perfect city. I have seen cities as glorious and as revolting as New York, as attractive and as decadent as Venice. You can go into every type of city, but you never find a perfect city. But we must act quickly because we are always planning, at any moment, for the next twenty years. If we wait twenty years then we have lost those twenty years irretrievably. The city has merely gone down while we have been waiting.

Reference was made by one noble Lord to the North-East of England. This is where I happen to live. In Newcastle-upon-Tyne we have taken steps over the last six years which I think have caused a dramatic change in outlook. We were the first city, I believe, to appoint a chief planning officer with a full planning department. The effect has been dramatic. I do not agree with all that he does; but if we start to think that we must agree with every change which takes place we shall never get changes at all. The important thing is that we have to go ahead. I believe that the development with perhaps the biggest prospects of all has been the recent creation of the North East Council which is to represent the whole of the North of England, including Cumberland, Northumberland, Durham and the Northern parts of Yorkshire. This will enable the whole region to think ahead. I believe it is only when we do this that we shall get anywhere at all. But, time is not with us. Time is something we must seize now and use!


My Lords, may I intervene for one moment on one point in support of my noble friend who has just sat down? We have not been wrong in our predictions about population over the last ten years. We were wrong in the 'twenties, when all the experts predicted that the population would go down, instead of which it has steadily increased, recently at a fairly astronomical rate.


My Lords, may I say that I am afraid my noble friend is wrong? The population has increased far more rapidly in the recent few years than we ever contemplated in the 'twenties.


That is just what I said.


I apologise to my noble friend.

6.21 p.m.


My Lords, in common with every other speaker this afternoon, I feel privileged to have heard my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies opening this debate, and I should like to express my personal gratitude to him for initiating it. I would add that we have been privileged to hear so many outstanding speakers on this subject—including the noble Lords, Lord Holford. Lord Esher and Lord Silkin—that those who have had to follow, I am afraid, must address their remarks in a rather minor key.

I cannot go on to the substance of my speech without a brief reference to some of the remarks of my noble friend Lord Wynne-Jones. He started off by quoting Samuel Johnson as saying that he who tired of London, tired of life. Surely that was of the London that Johnson knew. I am convinced that, if he had lived in the London of to-day, Dr. Johnson would rapidly have tired of London. My noble friend also spoke about the inadvisability of creating precincts. But surely there are certain areas where precincts are necessary to preserve their intrinsic and historical character. I agree that there are certain disadvantages in creating precincts in Newcastle-upon-Tyne, but no doubt this idea would apply to some other centres perhaps more ancient and more historic and better preserved than the modern Newcastle.


My Lords, I was referring to precincts of a professional or functional character, and not to a part which is residential.


I am glad that my noble friend has drawn a distinction, because a distinction is very necessary. One if his remarks—I am sorry if I take it out of context—was that we must go ahead and not wait. It is much more important to know in which direction we are going. We have seen examples where progress has been made too rapidly, and second thoughts have prevailed only when it was too late.

There is one aspect of urban planning and development to which I should particularly like to call attention. It is a matter which has been mentioned by several previous speakers, including my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies—that is, the preservation of our ancient and historic cities. My noble friend Lord Brockway has spoken about Slough, because it happens to be a town with which he is intimately familiar, and I, too, would refer to an area where I happen to live, which is different in character from Slough—namely, Oxford. I think that no better instance of the urgency of some form of outside control can be found than in the dreadful example of the despoiling of Oxford during the present century. If it is not yet too late to save Oxford from the hands of its local vandals, the time is woefully short.

While committees of inquiry sit deliberating endlessly, and plans and projects pile one upon another, the despoiling of Oxford goes on apace. There seems to be no control, no guiding hand, no overall plan, only a steady encroachment from all sides that is slowly destroying our most priceless national heritage. Why cannot the whole of the city be designated by the Minister as a national monument, as Spain has done with the city of Toledo, and a halt be called to the erection of those hideous monstrosities that have already spoilt the beauty of Oxford's once incomparable skyline? With the completion of the outer ring road, due to take place later this year, a new opportunity now presents itself. Cannot a halt be called now to all those projects for carving further throughways in the city's centre, with the hideous flyovers and underpasses and roads through the city's meadows?

If further development must take place, cannot it be confined to beyond this new outer ring road, which is rarely more than two miles away from Carfax, leaving the whole inner zone to be largely preserved inviolate? Already traffic through the city is so congested that people are finding it quicker to go from Kennington to Summertown along the new Western bypass. Could not through traffic in the city be largely eliminated by the construction of radial roads from the outer ring road, leading, like the spokes of a wheel, to car parks nearer the centre of the city?

By far the greater part of the population is living east of Magdalen Bridge, where the new Cowley shopping centre has already proved an outstanding success. Cannot new shopping centres be created in Botley and Kennington and Kidlington, all outside the periphery of the new ring road? If through-traffic could be largely eliminated in favour of shuttle traffic, the central area could be preserved mainly for the shopping needs of the University and of Oxford's visitors. Magdalen Bridge would then need no physical barriers to convert the centre of the city into a precinct.

Similarly, the short stretch of the Corn-market could be preserved without any physical barriers, mainly for pedestrians, in the same way as the Kalverstraat in Amsterdam or the Sierpes in Seville; and it is but a fraction of the length of either of these. Could not the shops in the Cornmarket and The High arrange for the store-to-door delivery of their merchandise, so that shoppers with parcels would not clutter up the pavements queueing for their buses?

In the days of our Indian Empire, we bad the vision to create a great New Delhi, some four miles away from the old Delhi, just as the French planners in Morocco built new cities in Fez and Meknes, some three or four miles away from the old cities, and as Reza Shah built a new Teheran away from the old town. Post-war Paris has preserved its centre inviolate and confined its skyscrapers to the suburbs. London, alas!, has already been despoiled by its planners and developers and gone the way of New York, so that a new Manhattan is looming ominously over Buckingham Palace and the Nash Terraces, and hideous shadows are already sprawling over London's parks.

Has not the time arrived to cry, "Hands off Oxford!" and leave the local developers to carry on their nefarious work at Blackbird Leys and Kidlington? It is difficult to avoid some degree of asperity in debate, which one really ought to avoid in this Chamber, when one happens to be discussing the special position of Oxford. Already a mass of ghastly new laboratories has invaded the peaceful reaches of the University Parks. Soon it is to engulf Merton's playing fields, and then to spread its tentacles to the sky. The Cherwell Meadows have been despoiled by hideous structures like the new St. Catherine's College, more suited to Lougborough or Leeds than to Oxford's Gothic or pseudo-Gothic enclave. For, after all, we in the Palace of Westminster bask in a pseudo-Gothic structure which is already a cherished part of the English scene. And what is so wrong with that? At least some harmony in our environment has been preserved. Just as Technology has already taken root in Headington, so inevitably must Science in Oxford ultimately overspill on to the Eynsham Road. Further development is hemmed in, happily, on all sides by the University Parks, the Christ Church Meadow, Port Meadow and Wytham Woods.

There is yet time to call a halt to the spoilers and the vandals. Let the Minister step in as soon as the next report appears and take further development out of the hands of the undistinguished, underpaid local planners. Oxford belongs not only to its present inhabitants of this benighted generation, but to our nation as a whole, and to the world at large, for all eternity. We have been privileged to receive a priceless heritage from the past. But what a dreadful legacy we are now bequeathing to the future! At least let us hold on to our inheritance, so that the architectural glories of Oxford may yet be reserved for posterity, inviolate and inviolable.

6.32 p.m.


My Lords, I apologise for not putting my name down on the list of speakers, but I should like just to put a thought in the mind of the noble Lord, Lord Brockway. I loathe land speculators as much as he does. I think they are the most despicable beings that exist. I was appalled by the figures the noble Lord gave.

The whole of this debate has been most interesting and learned. But if anybody is going to do anything in this connection, where is the money to come from? The real keypoint is cash. To take these despicable land speculators, you will probably find that their land has been changing hands quite rapidly; and it is unfair at this stage, even in the case of a land speculator, to say you are going to take his land from him. We might like to do it, but it would not be fair. Five per cent. interest on £1 million is £5,000 annually. By the time income tax and surtax is taken off it comes to £2,000. You could think of renting land for an annual payment of £2,000 if you "squared" the Treasury, which I do not believe anybody could. But when you talk about £2,000 an acre it looks a very different picture from £1 million an acre.

There is one other point, and it is this. If the noble Lord will come up into my town, he can get land fully serviced for an industrial site at £400 an acre. The point is worth knowing that all around there—and it is a desirable place to live and work in—land for industry and homes is available at this kind of price.

6.34 p.m.


My Lords, I have been looking forward very much to this debate, not because I was to make a speech, or because I had anything special to say, but because I was wanting to hear several noble Lords who I knew were going to speak to-day, notably three most distinguished architects, two of them also distinguished town planners, not to men- tion the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, with his practical background to the whole of this subject. And of course, we have had most interesting contributions from other Members of your Lordships' House, as well. As the first to speak from this Front Bench since the maiden speech we listened to, I should like to say how delighted we were to hear the noble Lord, Lord Holford. I know that none of us was disappointed in what he had to say. He is a great acquisition to your Lordships' House, and we hope that he will often come and help us with these problems, which are of outstanding importance and of great urgency.

I do not think that at this stage, after so many interesting speeches, it is necessary for me to say very much, and I do not wish to detain your Lordships for a moment longer than is necessary. However, I should like to resume one or two arguments which have been put forward, and to see whether there are any conclusions to be drawn. I think the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will have difficulty in drawing conclusions from this debate, and he will probably have to go away and digest the many suggestions which have been made. No doubt conclusions have to be reached and decisions have to be made as soon as possible, and that will be the duty of his right honourable friend. I hope that there will be no unnecessary delay.

So far as I can see in looking through my notes, there have been really only four quite specific recommendations put to your Lordships to-day. The first two were made by the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, who introduced the debate and to whom we are all deeply grateful for bringing up this subject, whose importance cannot be exaggerated; it is perhaps the most important subject, apart from basic economics, with which this country is faced. His first suggestion, with which we on this side of the House can certainly agree, and with which probably nobody would disagree, was that there should be a massive university research into the social and economic aspects of urban planning and development. His second suggestion, which is perhaps more arguable, was that we should in the future try to base our cities on institutions rather than on houses and people in the houses. While I think there is room for taking more account of the institutions and the space they will require as they grow, I would remind the noble Lord that institutions are made for people, not people for institutions.

We then came to the speech of the noble Lord, Lord Holford, who had some specific things to say about the quality of environment, and had certain recommendations to put forward about how we should preserve, not only individual buildings but groups of buildings, and fine landscape as well. I think perhaps the noble Lord underestimated what has been done by the Ministry of Housing and Local Government in this respect in the way of advice in their circulars, and certainly in respect of groups of buildings. There has been a great improvement in the last two or three years, and I think it is continuing. But I hope the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will pay attention to the noble Lord's recommendations on this point.

The final point I was able to pick up as a recommendation was that put forward by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. Although we are not in Parliamentary terms "noble friends", certainly outside this House we are friends, because I have known the noble Viscount for the better part of my life. The only thing that disappointed me about his speech was that it was not considerably longer. He gave us some startling figures about chief officers without planning qualifications and the shortage of staff. He made the quite clear recommendation that the Minister might consider removing delegated planning powers from those authorities which do not have chief officers with planning qualifications. I must say that although I would not support that straight away without further thought, because I know the difficulties with which the Ministry is faced, nevertheless when one does consider some of the disastrous results which have been—not achieved, but perpetrated, in various parts of this country, I think one is bound to have a certain amount of sympathy with that recommendation, although it might be very inconvenient administratively.

Apart from that, I have only a few general remarks to make. We are concerned with urban development in two aspects—new development, and redevelopment of what already exists. If I may say a few words about the latter subject first, my noble friend Lord Colville of Culross dilated upon that very efficiently and very logically, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, had much practical advice to give on this point. There is a great deal of information available in the Ministry of Housing and Local Government on this subject. At the same time, they are faced with, I believe, over 400 schemes put forward as town centre revision maps, and it takes time of course to get through this quantity. Some of those plans were made even before the publication of the Buchanan Report and, therefore, some of the ideas are now completely out of date.

I would remind noble Lords that a most interesting study was made by Taylor Woodrow, perhaps eighteen months ago now, on the possibility of private enterprise redeveloping an obsolete area in conjunction with the local authority. That was based on Fulham. The scheme was turned down subsequently by Fulham Borough Council on economic grounds, but there was much useful material in it. When I was at the Ministry of Housing and Local Government they were also carrying out a practical social and economic survey of redevelopment in Oldham and in another town—Bolton, I believe. I hope that the Minister may now be in a position to develop a technique of town centre redevelopment, worked out with the local authorities, who will necessarily cooperate with and use private enterprise for that purpose, and in which no doubt the Government will have to come in with certain financial suggestions—of what nature I do not know.

I think that a technique must be worked out, and as soon as possible, so that this redevelopment of town centres can go ahead as fast as possible, with confidence on all sides. Of course, there are many ways in which the local authority can approach this matter. I think we are all agreed—and the Fulham study brought this out—that it must be a question of comprehensive redevelopment and compulsory acquisition of the area, because private enterprise is not in a position to acquire the whole area necessary without compulsory powers. When it comes to the financing of it, then the local authority can decide whether it is going to sell freehold or leasehold, and on what terms. In the bulletins to which my noble friend referred quite clear advice is given as to the advantages and disadvantages of these various methods, suggesting that the local authority should, of course, take a fair "cut" out of the profits or the continuing income of such redevelopment. These are matters about which I feel the Government should soon be in a position to decide, and they should be able to help this redevelopment go forward throughout the country, as indeed it must.

Before I leave this aspect, perhaps I should mention a point which the noble Lord made about the shopping centres. He was basing his argument on the advantages of a linear or rectangular structure, rather than a radial one, and suggesting that shopping centres should be not merely in the centre but in the outlying areas as well. Of course, there are shops in the outlying areas in all the towns and cities. Possibly he meant that in redevelopment they should redevelop rather more important centres in these outlying areas, and I believe that suggestion is worth examination. I believe some local authorities are considering doing so. It might help the difficulties of the small trader if that were done. If not, I entirely agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that they should be found a place in major town centre redevelopments, not exactly by direct subsidy, but by charging higher rents to the big people, the commercial interests, who can afford to pay them, thereby allowing a smaller rent to these smaller people. But it may be doubtful whether there is a place for that in the big town centres, and the small people may go out and make a good living in outlying areas. The noble Lord, Lord Segal, even suggested the American system of having shopping centres right on the outskirts. It is really a question of policy, and I think it is something on which the Government will have to give guidance as soon as possible.

I come now to the development of urban areas, the whole problem of New Towns, and what form they should take. Of course, they are not at the moment on the grid system, and personally I must say that, so far as I can tell, having visited a good many, they are much more attractive places to live in for that. Many of them are full of character, and very pleasant. They have their area shopping centres as well as their town centre. But when we come to New Towns—and I think we are all agreed that the main solution for the future is the establishment of New Towns—then I believe the Government must decide (and perhaps they will be able to decide when they have finished their review of the South-East Study) what size these towns should be.

The noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies, said there was no optimum size; but there are a lot of knowledgeable and influential people who believe that on social grounds—that is, the quality of life and environment—it is about 80,000. That, curiously enough, fits in with the optimum size laid down in the Buchanan Report for the reasonable handling of car traffic, the use of the car and its parking. In the South-East Study, of course, proposals were made for new cities of up to 250,000 people, and whereas the previous Government, of which I was a member, had not decided on anything in respect of that Study, we were going ahead considering this matter. I think some decision must be taken whether you are to have a few very large cities or many smaller ones. This theory of a cluster of smallish New Towns of 80,000, not too far away from each other, and not self-contained, as the noble Lord said, but interchangeable in commercial, industrial and cultural life, as it were, without being created in the one huge agglomeration, is certainly a matter which must be gone into very carefully, and again it is a question of policy. I do not want to go into that in detail; there is no time, and it is too vast a subject. But this, again, can have a very considerable effect on transport and on the whole concept of the Buchanan Report and the future of roads in this country. Therefore this matter of policy should be decided as soon as the Government can see their way to doing so.

But even when we have decided this matter of policy, there are many other things that have to be decided, too; and this all refers back to what was said by the noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and others, about the requirements and desires of the people who are going to live in these places, and my noble friend Lord Gosford was very concerned, and rightly so, about future generations. We must try to plan for them. We must bear in mind that most people in fact prefer living in houses and not in fiats. That comes out quite clearly from the Rown-tree Trust housing studies, and the latest one in particular. And most people prefer houses with gardens. I do not think one can ignore that sort of thing.

When one considers that the South-East Study, with all its recommendations, found that the land covered by new building would go from 14 per cent. to 16 per cent. (only 2 per cent.) in the South-East as a whole, it seems possible to allow for the wishes of the people who are going to make their homes in whatever sort of new towns we build. But, of course, one has to consider the distribution of the whole South-East—East Anglia is pretty empty and the South is rather full. At the same time we do not want to rush ahead and build new towns which in one generation's time, certainly in two, are going to be completely obsolete and unacceptable to the life of fifty years ahead. Again, with all these new inventions which we have to try to foresee—one suggestion was that everybody would be travelling by private helicopter—I think the plans must be flexible, and it may well be that groups of towns would allow for greater flexibility than these enormous cities, of which we may perhaps have enough already. Therefore, the quality of life has to be considered the whole time.

That brings me to the last point I want to make, which is the matter of economics. It has been brought out from time to time, but not perhaps very strongly until my noble friend Lord Stonehaven rose at the last moment and thundered out this dire warning, that nothing could be done without money; and I think the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, was particularly concerned with the economic aspect as well. Certainly it has to be considered that it is much cheaper to build new towns than it is to redevelop either centres of old ones or to expand old ones, which means building new centres for expanding towns. At the same time, as the Ministry of Housing studies have shown very strongly in Peterborough and Ipswich, if you are going to expand, the more you expand the cheaper per head of population it is. All these economic factors have to be considered. Again, with running costs, if the new town is one of between 100,000 and 150,000 population it is cheaper to provide all the public amenities and utilities necessary than it is for a smaller town; but that size clashes with what is considered to be the optimum size for social and traffic reasons. These are some of the problems we have to solve.

The noble Lord's right honourable friend, the Minister of Housing, in an early appearance at the Town Planning Association, said that economics had priority and town planning had to argue its case and then hope economics would come to its assistance. I hope that is not the policy of the Government, because economics, in the short-term sense, as I take this remark to mean, can be bad economics in the long-term sense when you are dealing with the quality of life, the productivity of human beings in the long run. We must have a marriage of economics with human considerations, and not fit the human being into a rigid, economic straitjacket. I know the difficulties with which any Government is faced in this respect, but at the same time it seems to me that if we are basing our hopes for the future, as we must surely be, very largely on New Towns, the present legislation is perfectly adequate for us to go ahead without fear of economic restriction. As we know, the New Towns are beginning to pay their way. The money is loan money and they do eventually pay their way and can pay it back; therefore it is a productive investment.

The same can apply to the expansion of existing towns, where some form of New Town legislation was suggested by my right honourable friend when he was Minister, and I believe the suggestion is being pursued by the present Minister of Housing. That leaves for solution on the economic basis only this question of redevelopment of existing towns and town centres, and, as I say, I think the Government should have a fairly good idea how to tackle that and should produce an idea within the next few months how to set about it.

When it comes to roads, again all these matters affect the layout and design of future roads. Everybody agrees we cannot build fast enough in this country the roads that are necessary, not only for personal comfort but particularly for commerce and industry. We have not enough of them, and the Government are spending more and more money on the road policy, improvements and new roads. But they say there is a limit. I have recently returned from driving on the autostrade in Italy. There the vast corporation, I.R.I., which many noble Lords know about, has managed to build the autostrade in conjunction with private enterprise on an economic basis and with a minimum of Government subsidy, and the people using it are paying something towards the cost by the toll system. I believe we must consider that again. It is a solution to our road problem, and I do not think we are by any means too small a country to employ that system. When one considers that it can cut the time of travel by more than half, then I should think it becomes an economic proposition, too, for commerce and industry. I should perhaps say that this last part of my speech is purely a personal contribution, but I am trying to reinforce the point that in all sections of this problem economics need not be a bar to doing what needs to be done. Now I am sure we all wish to hear what the noble Lord has made of this debate and what hope we may have for the future.

7.0 p.m.


My Lords, I believe that everybody who has been listening must share my own view that we have never in my experience, and perhaps rarely in other people's experience, had a better debate than we have had to-day. It was not that generally we have not disagreed: in some ways I rather wish that we had disagreed a little more. But we have had some most interesting speeches, and I must add at once my thanks and my congratulations, both to my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies on what I thought was an extremely interesting speech, full of ideas, and also to that most distinguished new Member of this House, Lord Holford, whose name we have known slightly differently for a long time, and who may be said to be the Arch Priest (if that is the right term) of planning in this country.

I should like, too, partly as a personal matter—I hope that noble Lords will allow me to do it—just to add a word or two about my noble friend Lord Silkin, and I am going to quote what my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government said on the occasion to which the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, has just referred. It was this, and it is in point for our debate: We have only to reflect on the American scene to realise that if American planlessness had been permitted in a tiny over-populated island such as ours, and in a countryside full of tradition and beauty, it would have desecrated most of our national heritage in the years since 1945. What prevented this was the work of Lewis Silkin, the most far-sighted member of the Attlee Government. Without his Act, we should, as a nation, by now have destroyed almost everything of physical value in the culture and the amenities of our country. Without his planning techniques and his New Towns, we could not hope to develop any kind of civilised life in our modern industrial age. Those are generous words. They are rather eloquent words. I believe that they are perfectly true, not only in their application to my noble friend, but also in the general point that my right honourable friend was making.

Unless something had been done—and it was done mainly as the result of Lord Silkin's forethought—we should have had that kind of situation. We came back after the war, and for a short period there was a great wave of enthusiasm in this country—I am not talking Party politics—to get the country restarted again, and it was with that wave that the beginnings (they were technically the beginnings) of, shall we say, the development of town planning under the 1947 Act were made. I am not saying that the 1947 Act was perfect. There are differences of opinion. In my own view, it was quite on the right lines, and if some minor alterations had been made there would have been no trouble, as I see it. But that is not the point to-day.

But may I add something about the present position? I think that we are returning now to a period when there is another wave of enthusiasm for town planning in this country, though it is rather different in character. I should like to refer to the last things that the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, was saying. He spoke, quite rightly, about the economic planning of this country. Again, what my right honourable friend said about that is perhaps worth quoting—it is quite short: It is of vital interest to you"— he was talking to the Institute of Town Planning— as physical planners, that the D.E.A. regional economic plans should provide the environment for economic growth, because all the physical planning we are going to do will not make any sense unless it works within that framework. There were two other sentences afterwards, but I think that extract fairly states what he was trying to say. I should have thought that a reasonable way of looking at town and country planning nowadays.

The physical planning to which my right honourable friend referred was one way of looking at the whole of our national life and the ordering of it, and the other way, the economic planning, is of course equally important. It is the other side of the same coin, and there are no two of the activities of Government—not education, nor transport, nor anything else—of which you can quite say as much as you can of these two things, the economic planning, on the one hand, and the physical planning, on the other. This is a complicated matter. It is easy to tangle it up in one's own mind. But that is the way I look at it, and I think it is the realisation of that that has caused what seems to me to be a refreshing new interest in something that is vital to the country.

I am not going to attempt to answer every point in the debate. I will look carefully through it afterwards and see whether there is anything that any noble Lord asked that I can answer on paper. But it is rather late, and a great many points have been raised. I would say about the business of physical planning, that the reason why it is linked up with economic planning lies in what Lord Holford said that as a last resort you are dealing with the lives of people. It may be the wife, to whom another noble Lord referred, who wants, or who does not want, to go and live in some other part of the country. It is not applying an economic straitjacket to send people to these places or to a New Town. For example, it may be their best way of finding a good and interesting job. One thing is perfectly clear: that in this country of ours as it is at present, we must all be prepared to change our jobs rather more than we were prepared to a generation or so ago. I think that is an inevitable result of the technical and scientific development that is going on.

That emphasises what I wish now to say. However one may have looked at town and country planning in the past—and I think that in fact it originated on rather narrower lines—it is certainly now a case of a national plan and nothing else. Since I have already quoted the words, with which I entirely agree, about my noble friend Lord Silkin, he will not mind my saying one thing: that my own feeling (and I am here speaking personally) about the original New Towns was always that they were too close to London; they were too tied up with the London problem for that reason, and, though there were others in other parts of the country, there was not quite enough provision except as regards London. I do not want to put it too highly, and therefore I welcome the fact that New Towns and town expansions are now going into a sort of outer ring. There are the New Town plans for Peterborough, Ipswich, the New Town in North Bucks. and the rest, which are farther away from London. This raises questions about how far we want commuters and how far we do not want them; and how much industry we ought to put into a New Town and so on—a question which I think must be answered in relation to the particular case in mind. The questions that arise in Cwmbran or Corby are not the same as arise in, say, Stevenage or Crawley.

Turning from that aspect, we have had from my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies, some interesting remarks about the shape of towns. The noble Viscount, Lord Colville of Culross, picked him up on that subject, and said that there were only two perfectly good shaped towns, Middlesborough, and—I forget the other.


Milford Haven.


The noble Viscount forgot Glasgow, which is rather surprising for a Scotsman. Edinburgh is the other type of town where you have a long straight road and an imaginary monarch, and I must leave it to the Scots to decide who it was sitting at the end. I am not sure that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Llewelyn-Davies when he says that the long town is necessarily the more difficult to adapt. Edinburgh has adapted itself considerably lately, and has done so by spreading in new directions. But these are questions about which it is hard indeed to generalise. It must depend on the lie of the ground and on what is in the town already; and it must also depend on the character of the industry which is being carried on there.

In the same way—and here I entirely agree with my noble friend Lord Llewelyn-Davies—one has to be careful in making general remarks about size. They are very often based on sentiment. One can found the ideal size for a town on a suitable reading of Trollope. He is always very good literature for the Conservative Party, and one could easily arrive at the size of a "Trollope town", as it were. But I do not think that it is at all true to suggest that any one is better than any other. When one investigates one usually finds that the person making a suggestion has some connection with a town of that particular size. I am sure my noble friend Lord Brockway must think that Slough is exactly the right size. I say this because it illustrates the extreme particularity of the question in any case.

I am not going to say that noble Lords who are in Opposition at the moment are in a Party which did nothing about this for thirteen years. But I am going to say one thing about it; they were very slow in coming along with some new New Towns. I do not know how often, when I was in another place, I used to ask Mr. Henry Brooke whether he was going to put up some more New Towns. The exhibition of stone-walling which he put up was very good. I agree that they have now seen the light—and there is always some pleasure in seeing a repentant Conservative. We now have more New Town schemes—I agree that more has to be done—but one must not exaggerate their importance. I do not regard them as an alternative to dealing with areas of comprehensive development, or, if I may put it in another way, as an alternative to dealing with the very large twilight areas which exist still in some towns. That is another problem; and there again one cannot give a general solution; one must look at the question in the particular case.

If what I have been saying about differences between different towns and different areas is at all true, it illustrates another matter which leads one to use a word which is always very suspect. I am certain that the important thing about town and country planning, particularly at present, with scientific developments and other changes going on, is that it should be as flexible as one can possibly make it. The difficulty about using the word flexible is that one has to consider what exactly is meant by it. Sometimes "flexible" is just an excuse for failing to define something with sufficient clarity, but here it reflects an uncertainty which is inevitable.

We had the demographers talking about the future of the population of the country—that is bad enough. But when you get to the uncertainty attached to what is going to happen to a particular town, whether old or new, and how many people are going to be living in it, not in twenty years' time but far ahead of that, one must realise that one is dealing with an absolutely major uncertainty, which is something that is bound to attach to planning.

After all, planning is—I was going to say inspired guesswork. There is, after all, so much concerned in it. It is not merely a matter of science or population; it is a matter of the kind of life people may want to lead in twenty or thirty years' time. We are not sure that the kind of life which they may want to lead will be the same kind of life we are leading to-day. Their values may have greatly changed. That is again the result of a changing world, with developments in science, the consequent developments in education and so on. One must accept that. Since one is, as the noble Lord, Lord Holford, rightly said, dealing with people and with their lives, one must try to find a form of organisation for planning which will manage to cope with these uncertainties.

In a moment, I will say exactly what my right honourable friend is trying to do about this, but I should again like to say how thoroughly I agree with one or two noble Lords opposite who said that in this matter one cannot rule out cost. Very large figures indeed are involved in relation to the building of a New Town. I entirely agree with my right honourable friend's comment on the Buchanan Report, which was this: I venture to say—speaking as a practical politician—that brilliant as the Buchanan Report was, it demonstrates that the wholly desirable is financially impossible. I think that that is quite true. It would be very nice if the whole of the Buchanan Report could in some way or another be carried out, and I realise, and I am sure Professor Buchanan himself realises, that it was a counsel of perfection. It indicated the sort of lines one could go on, and in some cases one would perhaps be able to go further on those lines than on others. I agree with him about the transport question.

The present position, by the way, about a transport programme on the scale envisaged by Professor Buchanan was given by my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport in a speech on the 14th of last month. What he said at the end of quite a long passage was this: The only satisfactory basis on which the local authorities could develop their plans with the necessary degree of financial realism would be on the assumption that the future scale of investment in urban road construction was unlikely to be of a different order from that programmed and already announced up to 1970. That is all that can be done.

In another passage he criticised some of the comments made on the Buchanan Report as unreal, and said that they bore little relationship to the economic facts of life. This is the season of the year when one appreciates the economic facts of life; when one remembers all the discussions going on in another place on the Finance Bill. I notice that when that Bill is under a vigorous discussion it is always the time when someone wants to spend a lot of money on something else. I suggest, with great respect, that one cannot treat this kind of thing in that sort of way and one must consider cost.

On cost the most important question is what is going to happen on land costs. I do not want to go into what has already been said by my right honourable friend the Minister of Land and Natural Resources, beyond saying this. If we are going to get the kind of planning which most of us have in mind to-day, we can do so only with the help of an authority which is neither a local authority nor a Ministry but a specific unit set up for the purpose of seeing that the land is put to the right use when development takes place. I am putting this very generally. It is quite easy to pick holes in that and to say there are other things, and so on. But I do not think the House would wish me to go any further at the moment.

That leads me to one more point before I turn on to the last part of what I have to say, and that is with regard to planning organisation. I think it is fairly clear from what was said at the beginning, and what was said by the noble Lord, Lord Hastings, that this is not a case either of the regions the Department of Economic Administration is using, which are very large ones—they are rather like the old Saxon kingdoms—or of the local authorities. For planning purposes there perhaps ought to be an arrangement which is somewhere between the two, and that is one of the questions which my right honourable friend the Minister is considering.

Having said that, I ought to add one further remark. Somebody mentioned a particular case in which a report was made about the possibilities of developing, I think, town centres in conjunction with private enterprise. I am not sure that that met with by any means universal acceptance, and I think it has slipped out of the way. But that is not to say—


My Lords, may I ask the noble Lord one question about this point? I quite appreciate what he has said, but as he is talking about development with private enterprise could he say whether he adheres to these circulars? He has been asked by two noble Lords what is the attitude of the Ministry to these two circulars, Town Centres: Approach to Renewal and Town Centres: Cost and Control of Redevelopment, issued by the same Ministry in 1962.


My Lords, if I might put it this way to the noble Viscount, Lord Gage, I must admit that I have read most of them, but not all. A great many of them are very technical and contain all sorts of recommendations and so on. I have not yet heard in the course of this debate anything with which I disagree. Would that be sufficient? They do go into a very great deal of detail.

If I may turn to what my right honourable friend has in mind to do, there is a terrible lack of information at present. One finds this hard to believe until one puts a question to oneself—for instance, what is the right way to decide (I am not asking what is the right decision)—what to do about a large twilight area? What are the facts which one ought to take into consideration when deciding about it? One can think of a lot more examples. The information from the Census, for instance, is used for all sorts of purposes, but it arrives late and it does not give all the information that is wanted on lines of this sort. Without going into the matter in very great detail, there is undoubtedly a need for a great deal more information. I think the object, very largely, is to find out the methods of doing things, and one calls this "research".

What my right honourable friend is going to do over that is, first, to look at the machinery of planning by means of a planning advisory group. That group has been in existence for some little time. It has actually finished its Report, and the Report has reached the stage of discussion with the Stationery Office on how best to print it. It will therefore come out reasonably soon. It is an ad hoc body and the object of it is to look at the machinery of planning, particularly the development plan machinery.

The second thing that has been done is this. A Directorate of Urban Planning is being set up with Mr. Hugh Wilson—the Minister's technical advisor on urban development—at the head of it, and it is going to be a body which I do not imagine will be very large, which will be partly administrative and partly professional. That is to say, it is going to include both the Civil Service professional administrators and also town planners. This body is intended to continue, and the idea is that it should lead a new drive about town planning and design, and advise on what can be done about such questions as the use of the very limited skilled manpower that is now available.

Manpower, of course, presents a very serious difficulty, and among the papers which I threw on the floor a short time ago, by accident, was the Goss Report, which is a very fine report made to the Royal Institute of British Architects by a committee of their own. I think that the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, was either the chairman of that committee or the chairman of the part of the Institute concerned. I do not want to quote it at length, but I think most of us know this report and know how urgent the matter really is. For instance, the figures given to-day in relation to the number of qualified people on the staffs of local authorities are really shocking—there is no doubt about it. We are beginning to realise that one cannot plan as an act of inspiration; one must have some training for it. That report has therefore met every possible welcome from those concerned, as a means of stirring things up.

The Government have in fact already asked the University Grants Committee to consider, and to consider urgently, the best ways and means of stimulating a greater output of trained planners, both in the short term (I do not know what kind of dilution there is going to be) and in the long term. I am not an expert on the subject but I suggest that the University Grants Committee are obviously the right people to ask. It means that the universities are going to be brought in to help in this matter of training people. At present, as I understand it, there are training centres in the universities, and in some other academic institutions, and there may be a case for enlarging them.


My Lords, I wonder whether the noble Lord could tell me this. Of course, this applies not only to the architects; it applies also to the surveyors. Are the various sorts of surveyors co-operating? I know that many of them are interested in this matter, and I wonder if there has been consultation and co-operation with them.


My Lords, I am afraid that I should have to find out about that. I had the Goss Report before me and was thinking about the position in relation to planners and architect planners—to use the language in the Report. I will find out and write to the noble Viscount, and if he would like the contents to be made public he can always ask me a Question for Written Answer.

I think those are the main points, but they raise two points about local authority administration. I said just now that it seems doubtful whether the local authorities at present are the right units in all cases for planning. In some cases they undoubtedly are, but in others it is doubtful. This is a matter that will have to be considered. Side by side with it there is a broad question which comes in about cost. The Government really are—I say this in a surprised sort of voice because I have said so often that they would do it; I have always thought they would, but I have now discovered that they really are—investigating thoroughly, and on a broad basis, the relations between local government finance and central finance. The investigation covers questions like rates and the suggestion of one noble Lord to-day, of shifting something of the burden from the rates on to the central finance, and all the questions which were asked to-day under that particular head.

I think that the Government are being rather active about this. I wish to goodness there were more town planners. I also wish to goodness there were more Parliamentary draftsmen. One is nearly as scarce as the other at the moment. But it is a very serious matter, and I would put it like this. It is essential to get people interested and understanding about this. It is very difficult, because it is a difficult thing to understand. You can produce models; you can publicise; you can get eloquent people who are interested in it (and I am not sure that they are not the best advertisement of all) to go round and talk about it: and, if I am looking at the noble Lord, it is because he is here at the moment, and I would have said just the same to the other two noble Lords with technical experience who have spoken to-day. I am sure that anybody who pushes the case for this, and the fact that it means something—that it comes down on one side, as it were, of people's lives; no less than that—is doing a very good service, not only to the Government of the day but to his own country.

In this respect, so far as I can judge—I do not know as much about it as many people here—we as a country have done very well indeed. We ought to be very proud of this; we ought to go on doing it; and we ought to realise that if the system breaks down, if we get bogged down by the cumbersome and slow machinery, by the 14,000 town and country planning appeals which are made each year to the Minister, and the even larger number of applications that go to the local authorities—if we let that kind of thing get us down—then we shall not merely have surrendered to this machinery which we ourselves have set up, but we shall also have failed in that respect to solve the problem of living together to the best advantage of us all in a civilised, modern, industrial community, rather tightly packed in these islands. Since we are proud not only of those who have pioneered this business (whether it is in administration or, perhaps even more, in town planning itself) but of our own ability, as we see it, to cope with things in a changing world, let us continue to be keen on town planning and tell people who think it is horribly dull and horribly complicated, "It is your business to make it more interesting and less complicated".

7.33 p.m.


My Lords, I want to do no more than to thank those noble Lords who have participated in the debate this afternoon. It has been a great experience to hear this debate, and all I want to single out for mention is the very great pleasure it has given to me to have with us to-day, for the first time, the noble Lord, Lord Holford, and to listen to his fascinating speech. We look forward to hearing a great deal more from him in the future.

I should just like to come back to what I think are the two main points I wanted to make at the beginning. They are, first, the need for real research, comparable with what has gone into agriculture and medicine. There is no reason on earth that I can see why we should not be making an effort to master the problems of urban development which is comparable to the effort we have made so successfully in the fields of medicine and agriculture. As we seem to have both sides of the House 100 per cent. behind this idea, I do hope that the noble Lord, Lord Mitchison, will put it into practice in the nation's affairs.

The other point I want to make is that the question of finding a solution to the land needs of our great institutions up and down the country at this great moment of growth in development of our national affairs is a desperately urgent one. In Russia, the land would be taken for these places, for the country's natural growth. In America, they buy it. In England, they do not seem to be able to get it either way. This situation is rather acute and perilous, and it will not necessarily wait until we have solved the general problems of our land policy. With that, my Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.