§ Major J. Morrison
asked the Minister of Town and Country Planning the policy of his Department in regard to villages deemed to be in a state of disintegration; 38W and to how many villages this policy is to be applied.
§ Mr. Silkin
It is no part of the policy of His Majesty's Government to regard agricultural villages as in a state of disintegration. It is, however, recognised that there are villages throughout the country where improvements in living conditions are urgently needed, and I assume that it is with reference to such villages that the word "disintegration" is used. The improvements which are needed involve not only the provision of better housing and the development of services such as water, sanitation, electricity and transport, but also a consider able extension of educational and other social and cultural facilities, and, in many cases, the introduction of new industry.
In practice, these latter improvements can be provided only in selected villages. And although new opportunities for employment and education and a wider social life can to some extent be made available to all villages through improvements in transport facilities— and this is a policy which, where it is applicable, I approve and shall encourage— there is obvious advantage in placing a large proportion of new housing in those village centres where industrial and community buildings are located.
During the present period of shortage, it would seem wise to devote a considerable proportion of the available labour and materials to development in such chosen centres, but thereafter I do not consider that there should be any bar to the replacement of outworn houses and the improvement of services in the majority of smaller villages, to which the inhabitants are attached by long-standing ties and associations. Nor, of course, would I seek to discourage the building in such smaller villages of new houses required by persons, for example agricultural workers, who have to live near their place of work.
There are, however, some villages— usually small in size and mainly in the mining areas— which may truly be said to be in a state of disintegration both socially and physically, and where services and buildings are now in a semiderelict condition. Such cases arise, for example, as the result of the exhaustion of a local mine upon which the village has been dependent. The provision of proper living conditions and opportuni- 39W ties for the populations of some settlements of this kind may only be practicable by means of general demolition and clearance and the gradual reaccommodation of the populations concerned in new centres where the necessary employment opportunities, housing and communal facilities can be provided.
The problems to which the Question refers are obviously complex, and the course to be taken in any particular case requires very close regard to the particular circumstances. My officers will at all times be willing to discuss with the local authorities concerned the particular measures to be taken in order to secure as fully as possible that persons in village communities— as indeed in other communities— are housed in those places where convenience, amenity and the maintenance of a healthy communal life and tradition can be most fully secured.