HL Deb 13 May 1987 vol 487 cc651-6

4.16 p.m.

Baroness Hooper rose to move, That the order laid before the House on 8th April be approved. [18th Report from the Joint Committee].

The noble Baroness said: My Lords, I beg to move the Motion standing in my name. It may be for the convenience of the House if I speak at the same time to the second and third Motions in my name on the Order Paper.

I am pleased that we are able to consider these three orders together. All three are made under the provisions of Part XVI of the Local Government Act 1980. As noble Lords will be aware, there are two well-established UDCs for London Docklands and Merseyside. Two other UDCs have been established recently for Trafford Park and Cardiff Bay. The orders designate land respectively in Tyne and Wear, in the Black Country and on Teesside as urban development areas and set up urban development corporations.

These orders were judged to be hybrid, but I am glad to say that no petitions were received on any of the orders. They were debated yesterday in another place. Provided your Lordships are content to approve these orders, the three corporations will come into formal existence tomorrow. As your Lordships know, UDCs assemble, reclaim and service land, provide infrastructure and facilitate development. They are able to offer practical assistance and, in some cases, financial assistance to would-be developers. They bring a co-ordinated, single-minded, sustained and public sector-backed approach to the regeneration of their areas.

My right honourable friend the Secretary of State has power to confer certain functions on a corporation by statutory instrument. He intends to follow the pattern established for the other corporations for which he is responsible and give these corporations development control functions. He will bring forward orders to do this in due course and may vest certain public sector land in the corporations. He does not see the need at this stage to give these corporations housing, building control or public health functions.

Each of these areas has been studied by a team of consultants. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State drew on the advice of the consultants when he put forward boundary proposals for each area. He circulated those boundary proposals for comment and subsequently made the orders we have before us today. Each of the teams of consultants has produced reports on their areas. These have been placed in the Library. It will be for the corporations to decide on the strategies that they should adopt, but the studies indicate exactly what each corporation might achieve.

I shall now say something about each of the areas in turn. The proposed urban development area in Tyne and Wear covers something under 6,000 acres. In common with the other orders, detailed maps have been laid before the House and a sketch is provided at the back of the order. In the past, the area has provided sites for much traditional industry, particularly shipbuilding, heavy engineering and port-related activity. The task of the corporation will be to reclaim and service the derelict and empty sites along the rivers and to find new uses for them. These uses should diversify the economic base of the area and make use of the natural advantages of the rivers.

Mr. Paul Nicholson, chairman and managing director of the Sunderland firm Vaux Breweries, will be appointed as chairman, and the proposed board, composed of other people with local roots, has already been announced.

The Black Country urban development area is also just under 6,000 acres. It encompasses much of the worst dereliction at the heart of the Black Country. The task of the corporation will be to reclaim and improve access to sites within the area, and to upgrade the environment generally. Mr. Bill Francis and Mrs. Jean Denton will be appointed chairman and deputy chairman respectively. Both are well known in the area.

The area proposed for Teesside is a good deal bigger than the other two—over 11,000 acres. The main body of land lies on both banks of the Tees, from Stockton to Langbaurgh, incorporating parts of Middlesbrough and Hartlepool. There is a separate area covering the south docks in Hartlepool.

The area around the Tees has supported chemicals, steelworks and heavy engineering. These have contracted rapidly in recent years, leaving a legacy of dereliction and unemployment. The consultants have suggested an investment strategy underpinned by major environmental work. Perhaps the most interesting example of this is the proposal to create an international nature reserve on the marshland between the mouth of the Tees and Hartlepool. Mr. Ron Norman, a Hartlepool man with considerable experience of worthwhile investment in inner city areas, will be appointed chairman of this corporation.

Your Lordships' House was involved in the first steps that led to these orders. My noble friend Lord Davidson made the first public announcement here of the Government's intention to set up four new corporations in England on 8th October last year. A few days later my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale introduced an amendment to the Housing and Planning Bill which made it possible to set up such corporations outside metropolitan areas, thus clearing the way for the Teesside order.

Your Lordships now also have the chance to take the final parliamentary steps in setting up these corporations. Once the orders have been approved here, the corporations will be able to get down to the task of regenerating their areas. That task should start without delay. I therefore commend each of these orders to the House.

Moved, That the order laid before the House on 8th April be approved. [18th Report from the Joint Committee]—(Baroness Hooper.)

Baroness David

My Lords, I thank the Minister for her explanation of the orders. I have one or two questions to ask her. I was slightly surprised to hear that the corporation members had already been settled, because one of the questions I was going to ask was whether the local authorities were to be well represented.

Schedule 26, paragraph 2(2) of the Local Government, Planning and Land Act, states: In appointing members of the corporation the Secretary of State shall have regard to the desirability of securing the services of people having special knowledge of the locality in which the urban development area is or will be situated. The next sub-paragraph states: In relation to the possible appointment of people falling within sub-paragraph (2) above, the Secretary of State shall consult such local authorities as appear to him to be concerned with the regeneration of the urban development area. I should like to ask whether the local authorities have been consulted and whether local authority representatives have been appointed. It is an important point, because we know that there was a certain amount of trouble in Docklands. There were difficulties between members of the local authorities and of the corporation because the local authority members felt that they had been left out; whereas I know, having been a local authority representative on Peterborough Development Corporation, that having local people on it made a tremendous difference to the good will. I hope that there will be reassurance on that point.

The areas on the maps which are provided at the back of the orders are rather odd because they cover a great many local authority areas. One understands the reason for that. The areas of dereliction are where the old shipbuilding firms, and industries allied thereto, were. There are two areas. One is on the Tyne and one is on the Wear. They cover the boroughs of North Tyneside, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Gateshead and the city of Newcastle upon Tyne. That makes five authorities. The Teesside area includes the boroughs of Langbaurgh, Middlesbrough, Stockton-on-Tees and Hartlepool. The Black Country area has only two local authorities. Many local authority people will be involved. I should like some reassurance on that point, because I think that it is important.

One wished the corporations well. The Minister mentioned a marine reserve on the Tees. I was glad to hear about that. I am sure that it will be welcomed by those interested in such matters. It is an important point, because there were problems in Teesdale. The co-operation of all those interested in conservation is important. With those comments, we support the orders.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, I should like to say a brief word in support of what my noble friend said about the care that must be taken over the composition of the boards. I can endorse what she said about the aggravation that took place in Docklands. However, that does not mean to say that we do not know and appreciate all that the Docklands Development Corporation has done since.

When the Minister introduced these matters I was interested to hear her say that people had been appointed who were well known in the area. I should like to know what they are well known for and what their connections are. I should like the Minister to satisfy the House that care will be taken before the boards are finally composed. When the Minister's ministerial colleague, the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, introduced the Trafford Park order, he named some people but said that there were vacancies and that any names proposed would be considered.

I know Tyneside and Teesside well. I hope that we can tap the local authorities, but there are other interests in the area. I acknowledge that, in part, political affiliation is a factor to be taken into account. We are talking about industrial regeneration. There are many ways in which we can satisfy the people that an area's history and traditions are being taken on board.

There is an interesting aspect to Tyneside, which has many former pit slagheaps. They are made up of minestone. I have raised with the noble Lord, Lord Skelmersdale, and others the subject of making better use of minestone in roadmaking. I live in the Lee Valley. A great deal of development is held up while gravel is extracted from the land before it is built upon. Much of the gravel is used as aggregate in road building. One of the aggravations is that we have minestone which is a national resource—it comes out of the earth and is left when the coal is extracted—but if not hideous, it needs to be beautified.

One of the best uses to which minestone can be put is for road filling. I am not asking the Minister to respond to this point except to say that she notes it. The heardquarters of the minestone executive is in Philadelphia, at Houghton-le-Spring, in Tyne and Wear. It may be within the broad catchment area here. Good advice would therefore be available through British Coal and the minestone executive which would guide these authorities in the future. As my noble friend said, we are anxious to see that the aspirations of the development corporations come to fruition as quickly and as satisfactorily as possible.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, I am most grateful to the noble Baroness, Lady David, and the noble Lord, Lord Graham, for their remarks and their welcome for these orders. On the question of membership, I recognise that this is an area of great interest and one that is most important if the urban development corporations are to carry out their work satisfactorily.

The Government try to learn from experience. The experiences that we have had with the two earlier development corporations have helped us to make decisions on these three. As I said in my opening remarks, only the Tyne and Wear corporation membership has been announced so far. The full membership, apart from the chairman, has not been finalised for the other two corporations. The Tyne and Wear Development Corporation has eight members other than the chairman and deputy-chairman; three of those are local authority members. The full membership can be greater—up to 11 members—and there is therefore space for additional members. The three local authorities that are represented are Newcastle City Council, South Tyneside Borough Council and Sunderland Borough Council. Perhaps I may point out to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that one of the members is Mr. Joe Mills, who is secretary of the local Transport and General Workers' Union.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

And a very good man too.

Baroness Hooper

My Lords, that may go some way to reassure the noble Lord and the noble Baroness. Consultation with the local authorities has taken place and the Government aim to strike a proper balance between local authority and other membership. However, they have insisted that all members are people with local interests or roots. I am sure that everyone will argee that that is the most desirable aim.

With regard to nature reserves, the consultants have recommended a nature reserve and the appropriate land has been included in the UDC area. However, it is for the UDC eventually to decide exactly what will happen. Perhaps I may say to the noble Lord, Lord Graham, that I am sure his previous words were not wasted on my noble friend Lord Skelmersdale. I have nevertheless taken note of his remarks about the use of minestone for roadmaking. I commend the order to the House.

On Question, Motion agreed to.