HC Deb 22 June 1971 vol 819 cc271-2W
Dame Irene Ward

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what further steps he proposes to take to encourage the improvement of the environment in the development and intermediate areas.

Mr. Peter Walker

With the Secretaries of State for Scotland and Wales I am today giving notice of presentation of a Bill to enable increased financial assistance to be given to house improvement in local government areas wholly or partly within development areas or intermediate areas, if grant application is made on or after 23rd June and the work is completed within two years of that date.

It is proposed that grants of 75 per cent. should be payable to private owners carrying out approved work compared with 50 per cent. at present; and that where this is done the Government contribution to the grant should go up to 90 per cent. compared with the present 75 per cent. The maximum discretionary grant will go up from £1,000 to £1,500.

We propose further that the Government contribution to approved work of house improvement carried out by local authorities or housing associations working with them should go up to 75 per cent., double the present level; and that contributions on a similar percentage basis should be payable towards environmental improvement work in general improvement areas or, in Scotland, the improvement of residential areas.

Subject to the passing of the Bill, I hope that the authorities in the areas concerned will take the opportunity of these more generous grants and contributions to encourage a much higher level of house improvement in development and intermediate areas for in many of them it has been markedly below the level for the country as a whole. The Government will give all possible assistance in publicising these new levels of grants and the fact that work must be completed before 23rd June, 1973, in order to qualify for them.

I am equally anxious to encourage the maximum acceleration in the clearance of derelict land. The grants for the development and intermediate areas are already at a very high level, and I have already given local authorities in these areas assurances that expenditure on derelict land this year should not be limited by pressure of other capital expenditure in the loan sanction pool for locally determined schemes. However, I have decided that, as far as the coming year is concerned, there shall be no restraint on derelict land expenditure in the development and intermediate areas, and, to ensure this, derelict land proposals will be treated as key sector proposals and will not be part of the general pool. I hope that this will encourage the authorities concerned to prepare ambitious schemes for accelerating the removal of these eyesores from the environment in these regions.