HL Deb 25 February 1991 vol 526 cc766-8

2.55 p.m.

Baroness White asked Her Majesty's Government:

What resources are being made available in Wales under the derelict land programme in 1991–92, and how this compares with current provision.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, provision for derelict land clearance in Wales for 1991–92 will be £27 million—over 10 per cent. more than the £24.5 million budget for the current year. The programme is administered in Wales by the Welsh Development Agency.

Baroness White

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that reply and look forward to further information when she replies to a related Question for Written Answer. Is she aware that I was prompted to table these Questions by the Answer given to the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, on 7th February by the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch? That Written Answer covers nearly two columns of Hansard and, concerns the development land programme exclusively for England. The Question was an open Question, but it was answered with no reference whatever to the problems of Wales. Can the Minister say when we may expect to receive for Wales a report comparable to that for England on which the noble Baroness, Lady Blatch, based her reply?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I have seen that the noble Baroness, Lady White, has made good that error of not mentioning Wales by putting down a Question for Written Answer to that effect even today when she is asking this oral Question. In answer to her supplementary question, a derelict land survey for Wales was approved by the Secretary of State in 1988. The survey is complete and the findings should be published in the spring.

Lord Prys-Davies

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for her encouraging reply to the Question. Is she aware that it was my noble friend Lord Cledwyn, when he was Secretary of State for Wales and in the aftermath of the Aberfan disaster, who took the decisive step to embark upon a reclamation policy? That was 26 years ago. Can she indicate when that programme is likely to be completed, given the present rate of progress? With regard to my noble friend's supplementary question, can the Minister persuade her ministerial colleagues or the powers that be that, when a functional department in Whitehall takes upon itself to answer a question about the impact of the domestic policy of HMG, it will not ignore its impact on Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, we shall do our best. With regard to the first part of the noble Lord's question, as a result of the survey we shall have a much clearer picture of what remains to be done. The agency hopes to remove a substantial proportion of the remaining visually intrusive dereliction in Wales as a whole by the second half of the mid-1990s. A high priority is attached to removing the scars of industrial dereliction in the valleys, which are potentially a most beautiful part of Wales.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, I appreciate the Minister's initial reply to the Question of my noble friend Lady White. Can she tell the House how much derelict land in Wales is owned by British Coal? Secondly, is she aware that there is considerable disquiet in Wales because of the apparent unwillingness of British Coal to sell the land to the Welsh Development Agency and the land reclamation officers? Does she agree that it is absolutely essential for that land to be made available for the development of industry and associated housing in the public interest in Wales?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, before agreeing with the noble Lord, Lord Cledwyn, I should prefer to take advice and write to him. I asked my informers whether opencast coal sites were eligible. Before any opencast coal operation can start, a restoration condition is attached to the required planning permission. On completion of their operations, the operators will restore the land for future use. The WDA would give and has given assistance to historic sites predating such requirements.

Whether that information is useful to the noble Lord, I am not sure. However, in order to do justice to his question, I shall write to him.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, all information given by the noble Baroness is always useful. May I assume from what she said that she will look into the allegation that the Welsh Development Agency is finding it extremely difficult to negotiate the sale of derelict land from British Coal?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, yes.

Lord Dean of Beswick

My Lords, is the Minister aware that with regard to disposal of land in general by public bodies successive governments have given guidance that the first option for the disposal of such land ought to go to the local authority or public authority acting on its behalf? Why has the position been changed? If it has not been changed, why is it not allowed to do so now?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, your Lordships will understand that I speak of the Welsh situation. I hope that I do not receive complaints from England and Scotland.

The grant is available to local authorities, private bodies and individuals alike for the reclamation of derelict, neglected or unsightly land; that is, land so damaged by past industrial or other development that it is incapable of beneficial use without treatment, or land which although capable of some beneficial use is at present uncared for, untidy or in a condition detrimental to the environment.

Local authorities can receive up to a 100 per cent. grant. Individuals, companies, corporations or other bodies receive a grant up to 80 per cent.