§ VISCOUNT GAGE asked His Majesty's Government when they propose to introduce legislation to amend the Town Planning Act, 1925. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I do not propose to try to initiate a detailed discussion as to how the Town Planning Act might or might not be amended, but I heard it rumoured that the Government had a Bill in preparation and I would suggest that, if that were so, it might be for the convenience of those now engaged in preparing town planning schemes if the Government could inform them as far as possible or what their intentions are. I understand there are over five million acres of country now under some kind of town planning control. Most of these schemes are of fairly recent origin and it is obvious that a good deal has been learned 1014 about town planning since the last Act in 1925. From the experience I have had of a joint scheme in Sussex, we have learned that, if you have a large number of local authorities trying to operate a big joint scheme under the present Act, there is a tendency for the machinery to become very complicated indeed, and the complication seems to be rather unnecessary in view of the alterations in local government made last year. I cannot help feeling that this procedure could be simplified fairly easily and would result in greater expedition of these schemes on which we are engaged. That can be done by a comparatively small Amendment.
§ There is one other matter, the question of the name of the Bill. It has always seemed to me rather anomalous that, if you want to do something to preserve the countryside, you should have to try to raise popular enthusiasm for an Act apparently designed on the face of it to plan towns, in another place a Bill was introduced some time ago by a private member called fie Rural Amenities Bill and, though there may he some doubt in high judicial circles as to the precise meaning of the word "amenity," it conveys a meaning to a large number of people who want to do something to prevent the destruction of the countryside but who are at present absolutely unaware that any action can be taken at all under an Act of Parliament. There are, of course, many other things that could be said into which it is unnecessary to enter at present. Everybody has the utmost confidence in the Department and all I am asking is when they are going to have an opportunity to introduce an amending Bill.
§ LORD PARMOOR
My Lords, on behalf of the Government, I gratefully thank the noble Lord for speaking on this subject and also for the suggestion he has made. Everyone knows that he, as a large landowner, has been definitely helping in the regional scheme to which he has referred and which, in fact, includes a large portion of his own property. So far as the Government are concerned, they are entirely in sympathy with the noble Viscount and thank him for bringing this matter forward and for what he has already done in regard to this regional scheme. One word upon a special topic. With regard to what, he said about the word "amenities," we dis- 1015 cussed it a good deal the other day and I find that, in both the French and English dictionaries, it is regarded as the largest possible word including all that is desired to be included in a scheme of this kind. It is curious that in both the definition is the same, "agreeableness," a word meaning everything that can be included with advantage and everything the noble Viscount would desire to include in laying out a rural amenities scheme.
The Government quite realise that the existing statutory provisions are inadequate for present requirements. It is recognised that there is a general demand for an extension of planning powers, not only of built areas of towns in order to secure that re-development, as and when it takes place, shall be carried out on a settled plan, but also in rural areas so that development may be brought under proper control and the amenities—I use that word again—of the countryside preserved and respected. Steps have already been taken to obtain the views of members of local authorities and of important organisations who are interested upon the difficult and complicated questions which, as the noble Lord knows, do arise and the Government will take the question of legislation on this subject into careful consideration when framing their programme for next Session.
I only wish to add two words to that. First of all we are grateful for any suggestion which in any form the noble 1016 Viscount himself will be prepared to convey to them, and, secondly, as he has indicated himself, as one of the questions involved is the position of some of the local authorities in amendments in order to make the scheme work more easily, we shall be glad to hear any suggestion he makes himself on those points. Of course, he would not expect me to give a pledge for next Session, but we hope and desire, in accordance with the opinion expressed by the noble Viscount, that this subject may be brought within our programme and that we may be able to deal with it effectively. It is perhaps a Bill that we might adequately consider in this House in the first instance. We ought to make every possible use of this House for technical legislation of this character, which is not political and which stands outside the ordinary atmosphere of politics. I hope the noble Lord will appreciate the answer that I am able to make.