HC Deb 16 April 1973 vol 855 cc25-7W
Sir F. Corfield

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he can now state the Government's views on the Severnside feasibility study.

Mr. Kimball

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he can now state the Government's views on the Humberside Feasibility Study.

Mr. Rippon

The Humberside and Severnside feasibility studies were commissioned in 1966 and published in 1969 and 1971 respectively. They were occasioned by forecasts that by the end of the century the population of Great Britain would have risen to over 70 million. Current projections, which take account of the provisional results of the 1971 census, indicate that the figure is more likely to be about 61 million, a growth of about 7 million.

A projected population growth of some 20 million would have made necessary the establishment of major new urban areas of unprecedented size, calling for a special national effort, whereas it now seems possible to provide for the lesser number by the controlled growth of existing urban areas or in new towns of the traditional kind, without interference with the present planning system.

In these circumstances, while there is a need to continue to tackle the present unemployment problems of South Wales, for example, a national effort to divert industry to support a population of over 300,000 in the area of Frampton Cotterell could not be supported. The Government do not intend, therefore, to stimulate growth in either Severnside or Humberside by any special means.

Those who have to prepare the strategies for the regions in which Humberside and Severnside are located and those responsible for the statutory planning of the areas will nevertheless be able to draw inspiration from the studies and will find much useful information, conclusion and suggestions in both studies to absorb into the normal planning process. In some instances the solutions offered by the studies may be regionally or locally unacceptable. This is the case with the proposal for the development of what amount to two new towns in North Gloucestershire. The Government share the view of the local authorities, as expressed in their North Gloucestershire Sub-Regional Study, that these are not needed.

On the other hand, there will be suggestions in the studies which local planners may wish to follow up, such as the proposal for development at Frampton Cotterell. If the local planning solution for meeting the population growth there, which will still be significant, calls for some development at Frampton Cotterell, although on a less massive scale than was suggested in the Severnside Study, the Government would not stand in its way by, for example, ruling out reconsideration of green belt boundaries, so long as this would not damage the overall effectiveness of the green belt—something which the Government are anxious to safeguard.

Generally the studies contain much survey work which will be of lasting value, and regional and county planning should benefit from the work on feasibility and the range of available options which will help in forming an overall assessment of the present situation and future possibilities. At county level the boundaries of the new counties of Hum-berside and Avon were drawn in the spirit of the concepts which produced the enduring parts of the studies.