HL Deb 05 May 1970 vol 310 cc209-12

7.31 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a second time. This is a small and, I hope your Lordships will agree, a very useful Bill. It aims at solving a practical problem which is causing difficulty in modern developments, particularly housing developments, where pedestrians are segregated from vehicular traffic. Lay-outs designed to achieve this segregation are becoming increasingly preferred by local planning authorities. In physical terms, it means that footpaths in the developments are often quite separate from carriageways. There is no problem where such developments are carried out by local authorities, but where they are undertaken by private developers, which include New Town corporations and Scottish special housing associations as well as private companies, there may be some difficulties. That is because some local authorities have no clear powers to take over or maintain the segregated footpaths, and responsibility for further maintenance must remain with the developers.

In practice, this is not a satisfactory state of affairs because, for example, the private developer may have only a temporary interest in the development and may move on to further projects, or may even have gone bankrupt which, in the light of recent experience of the Scottish building industry, is quite a reasonable possibility. Alternatively, it may fall to individual frontagers to maintain the footpaths, which can be quite a burden for them. The Bill would therefore give permissive powers to county councils and town councils to take over and maintain segregated footpaths in housing or commercial developments. It would also enable them to construct footpaths, thus filling another gap in their powers. In conferring these powers, the Bill would meet the wishes of the local authorities themselves, as expressed through the Association of County Councils; and a number of individual authorities, such as the Renfrewshire County Council, the Dunbartonshire County Council and the Stirlingshire County Council, have expressed interest in supporting this Bill.

The Bill also deals with an associated problem; that is, the lack of clearly defined powers for local authorities to take over and maintain small open spaces which are frequently provided as part of landscaping in modern developments. The Bill would give permissive powers to county councils and town councils to take over and maintain such open spaces. The purposes of the Bill are clearly desirable and practical. I hope that your Lordships' House, at this late hour, will have no hesitation in giving it a Second Reading. My Lords, I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read 2a.—(Lord Taylor of Gryfe.)

7.35 p.m.


My Lords, we are all grateful to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, for the lucid way in which he has explained this little Bill. I think it has everything to recommend it and, although I have tried to find holes to pick in it, I have found none. The powers already exist in a few cases, and in the Kingdom to the South, in England and Wales, these powers have nearly always been held by local authorities. I have known one or two private developments where the footpaths have not been alongside the road, and they have deteriorated into rather unpleasant places on which to walk. Ladies in high heels have caught their feet and anyone walking in the evenings was apt to take a nasty toss. This Bill will help to eradicate that problem by giving the councils power to take over privately-owned spaces. I do not think any private developer can have anything but gratitude that local government is given power to do this, which is all for the public good. With those few words, I beg to support the Bill.

7.37 p.m.


My Lords, with your Lordships' permission I should like to add my congratulations to the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, for the excellent manner in which he has introduced this Bill. For 16 years I served on a local authority in Scotland and we came up against this problem of who was going to look after the footpaths. In our case, the county council were quite clear that they would not touch the footpaths with a barge pole, and anything which had to be done fell upon the district council who had very little reserves and very little power for raising money to cover such needs. We managed to create some footpaths, but it was done with the maximum difficulty and tribulation. This Bill puts the expense upon the county council who can much better afford it, and clears up the rather murky situation which the noble Lord mentioned. Therefore I welcome the Bill.

With some hesitation I should like to make one further point on Clause 5, the interpretation clause. That gives the definition of "carriageway", but I do not see where that word appears in the Bill. I may have given the Bill too cursory an examination, but if the word "carriageway" does not appear in the Bill it seems to me that it does not need to appear in the interpretation clause.


My Lords, I should like to add my congratulations to those of noble Lords opposite to my noble friend Lord Taylor of Gryfe for bringing this very useful Bill before your Lordships. The form in which it has reached us seems so eminently suitable that I hope it not only receives a Second Reading but that it passes through your Lordships' House in future stages and emerges exactly as it is at the present moment.

7.38 p.m.


My Lords, I thank your Lordships for the friendly reception given to this rather simple but important Bill. I appreciate the comments of the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, who knows from his experience in a local authority how desirable this legislation is. I am afraid I am unable to deal with his particular point regarding the definition of "carriageway" in the interpretation clause but not in the body of the Bill, but the Bill itself clearly explains that what is covered by the proposed legislation is not paths alongside roadways but segregated paths in areas which are closed to vehicular traffic. In these circumstances, I assume that the noble Lord, Lord Balerno, will accept this explanation.

On Question, Bill read 2a, and committed to a Committee of the Whole House.