HC Deb 10 March 1986 vol 93 cc339-40W
Dr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment what information he has as to the acreage of land presently earmarked or zoned for building houses in Essex; and if he will express as a percentage of this the area of the site of special scientific interest land at West Mersea, Essex, in respect of which approval to construct houses has been granted after a planning inquiry.

Mr. Tracey

The Essex structure plan makes provision for 93,840 dwellings in the county between April 1977 and 1991. By mid 1985 about 60,200 dwellings had been constructed and there remained provision for about 33,600 dwellings. On the basis of a density of 30 dwellings per hectare, which it is the policy of the plan to achieve in estate housing development, this would amount to development of about 1,120 hectares of land. No decision has yet been given by my right hon. Friend on the planning applications in respect of the land at West Mersea to which the hon. Members refers. The area of the site in question is 0.32 hectares.

Dr. David Clark

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment why he applied a section 29 order to land notified as a site of special scientific interest at West Mersea, Essex, in 1985; and if he will state the reason given by the inspector for his subsequent approval of an application to build houses on this land.

Mrs. Rumbold

The site, which had not at the time been notified as a site of special scientific interest, was under immediate threat. On the information then available the Secretary of State was satisfied that the site was of special interest and of national importance, and that it was appropriate to provide an extended period of protection for the area concerned by means of a nature conservation order. In the light of more detailed information available at the subsequent public inquiry, the Secretary of State concluded that the site could not be regarded as being of national importance as defined in section 29 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, and accordingly decided that the nature conservation order should be revoked.

The Secretary of State is currently considering the inspector's report on the related planning application and will announce his decision shortly.