HL Deb 29 June 1982 vol 432 cc143-5
Viscount Mountgarret

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 whether caravans, particularly those of a residential type, should have a mandatory requirement to be painted green or brown having regard to the ever-diminishing beauty of our countryside.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, it would not be appropriate for the Government to dictate the colour of residential caravans. Local authorities have power to impose colour conditions when granting planning permission and site licences for the caravan sites. They are best placed to consider what will suit the beauty of their own locality.

Viscount Mountgarret

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that reply. Would he not agree that it may be helpful if the Government give a lead and encouragement in this matter? Would he not agree that the sight of a number of white caravans parked in virgin rural settings can completely ruin what is otherwise a peaceful and rather attractive view, and if some effort were to be made to merge them into their natural surroundings the stark contrast would be somewhat alleviated?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I note what my noble friend has said. In 1980 the British Standards Institution published a range of preferred exterior colours for static caravans. These were the most acceptable colours within the landscape which also avoided problems of overheating. My right honourable friends the Secretary of State for the Environment and the Secretary of State for Wales gave this range their support in August 1980 and indicated to the local authority associations that they would have regard to it when considering planning appeals.

Lord Gladwyn

My Lords, would it not be even better if all caravans were compulsorily camouflaged?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, that indeed is a point. It may be for the convenience of the House if I say that there are 28 colours laid down in these statistics, varying from mud greys, through beige, greens, browns and blues.

Lord Gibson-Watt

My Lords, in supporting my noble friend's Question, may I ask whether, in view of the fact that this makes a great visual impact upon the rural scene, particularly on parts of the coastline where often no trees can be planted, he would not ask his right honourable friends to have discussions both with the Countryside Commission and with the Caravan Club which have an interest in this matter?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, as I think my earlier replies will have brought out, there are powers for the local authorities to do this. The Government believe it right to leave the matter with the local authorities.

Lord Winstanley

My Lords, while fully supporting the noble Viscount in what he seeks to do by means of this Question, may I ask the noble Earl whether he is aware that the national park authorities are of the opinion that green is not an ideal colour for caravans in the countryside? Is he aware that one cannot pick the right shade of green and that some shades of green are very obtrusive at some times of the year? Experiments have shown that probably the least obtrusive colours are dark grey and black, neither of which is very suitable from a temperature point of view for the occupants of the caravans. With that point in mind, would the noble Earl agree that the best solution to this problem is the very careful siting of caravan parks and assistance with tree planting to screen caravans in the countryside?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am very grateful to the noble Lord for his intervention. With all his knowledge of the Countryside Commission, he is well competent to give us this advice. If I may say something about the colour green, I am actually wearing a Green Jackets' tie which was of course designed for camouflage.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, I should very much like to support the noble Viscount who asked this Question. I am very sorry that the noble Lord, Lord Taylor of Gryfe, is not here because the Economic Forestry Group have a first-class example of blending caravans into woodlands in a forest in the South of Scotland. That is something I commend to anybody who wants to see how well it can be done.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I am grateful for this excellent example of what can be done with a little thought and consideration.

Lord Mowbray and Stourton

My Lords, while not wishing to upset my noble friend Lord Mountgarret, would not my noble friend the Minister agree that if my noble friend's intent was carried out and caravans were beautifully camouflaged, there might be a road hazard, as when drivers overtook them they might see only beautiful countryside and then find themselves having an accident?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, I should like to draw my noble friend's attention to the fact that these are static caravans. I therefore hope that there will be no overtaking.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, may I ask my noble friend a question? The words "ever- diminishing beauty of our countryside" appear in the Question. May I ask what orders or requirements the Government can make in respect of local authorities which allow caravan sites and then allow the sites to become not only disgustingly dirty but an eyesore to everybody who passes them?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, the local authorities have these regulations and it is up to them to enforce them. If it comes to the Government intervening, I am not sure what our powers are at the moment.

Viscount St. Davids

My Lords, may it not be of some value to suggest to the caravanners that they should perhaps copy the ideas of some of us inland waterwayers and paint their caravans tastefully with some pictures of roses or even castles?

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, with that particular question I think we are moving a little down the wrong channel.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, may I ask the Minister whether he will confirm that there is quite a difference between the physical standard or structural standard of touring caravans and those of caravans which are permanently in one position? Can he also inform me whether there are any restrictions whatsoever upon the condition of caravans in people's back gardens? I am not referring to the parks which have been mentioned so specifically, but perhaps the greatest eyesore is the single caravan rusting away and long discarded in people's own yards in the country.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, there has been public consultation about this rather different matter, which has unified local authorities' control over camp sites and sites for the touring type of caravan. As far as caravans in the garden are concerned, the position will depend on the powers of local authorities in the area concerned.

The Earl of Swinton

My Lords, is my noble friend aware with regard to what he said about planning and local authorities—and I am thinking of the national parks—that in order to get over this problem people who put up large agricultural buildings, particularly those made of asbestos, were encouraged to spray them with farm slurry in order that in the course of time lichens and mosses would grow and they would blend in with the countryside? I do not think such plans would be very popular with people living in the caravans at the time the slurry was put on.

The Earl of Avon

My Lords, my noble friend brings out the point that some things are not altogether happy for the inhabitants of caravans.

Back to