HL Deb 12 March 1981 vol 418 cc384-5

3.18 p.m.

Lord Underhill

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government why, in view of the concern expressed during consideration of Clause 104 (assessment of development land) of the Local Government, Planning and Land (No. 2) Bill about possible encroachment on green belt land, and ministerial assurances that the provisions of the clause are only reserve powers, the Secretary of State for the Environment is now proposing that the Essex County Council Structure Plan be modified to move the Metropolitan green belt from the present 15 miles to 12 miles from the Greater London boundary.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, De- partment of the Environment (Lord Bellwin)

My Lords, the proposed modification to the structure plan would involve no encroachment on the original approved green belt, and is entirely consistent with my right honourable friend's view that a depth of 12 to 15 miles is generally sufficient for the specific purposes of the green belt. The modification is in no way inconsistent with Section 116 of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 (formerly Clause 104 of the Bill).

Lord Underhill

My Lords, while thanking the Minister for that reply, may I ask whether he is aware that, before the Local Government Act was introduced into this House, there were statements in the London press suggesting that the Secretary of State had in mind a possible development in the green belt area and that expressions of concern were raised by myself and other noble Lords during the discussions on the Local Government Bill? Is he further aware that there is now great concern throughout not only the area affected, but also in the Essex County Council Planning Committee? Would the Minister agree that the impression is given that the Secretary of State intended to have some development in the green belt and that that has been the policy which he has been pursuing?

Lord Bellwin

No, my Lords, I would not agree with that at all.

Lord Mishcon

My Lords, would the Minister agree that it would be highly undesirable if his right honourable friend did have such a policy?

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, my right honourable friend has made the position quite clear. It is for the county authority to decide upon the structure plan. It then comes forward for consideration by the Secretary of State. He then makes such modifications as he thinks ought to apply. It is then open to people to object to those modifications if they wish to do so, and it then comes back to the Secretary of State for him to consider those objections. The current position, with regard to this particular case, is that he is now considering the objections which have been made.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, I appreciate the latter reply from the Minister, but it does not alter the concern. I wonder whether the Minister will agree that the request for modification should not even have been made. We hope that the Secretary of State will consider the protests from quite a large number of organisations, not only in the area affected but also in the built-up areas near this area.

Lord Bellwin

My Lords, other than by repeating what I said, I do not think that I can help the noble Lord any further, but I note what he says.

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