§ 2.39 p.m.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I beg leave to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order paper.
§ [The Question was as follows:
§ To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will obtain additional planning powers so as to ensure that, where an area in a town is redeveloped, adequate provisions shall be made for food shops at such rents as this type 795 of business can afford, so that residents in the area do not have to go long distances to buy their food supplies.]
THE JOINT PARLIAMENTARY SECRETARY, MINISTRY OF HOUSING AND LOCAL GOVERNMENT (EARL JELLICOE)
My Lords, my right honourable friend is not convinced that such powers are needed. Section 19 (6) of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1944, as incorporated in the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, already gives displaced traders a measure of protection. It places an obligation on the local authority and the Minister in areas shown on the current development plan as areas of comprehensive development, to secure that, so far as is practicable, reasonable alternative accommodation is offered to displaced traders on terms which have due regard to the price at which their land was acquired. My right honourable friend is very conscious of this obligation. Before he gives consent to the disposal of such land by the local authority to private developers, it is his practice to ensure that proper consideration has been given to this question by the authority concerned.
Where shops form part of a local authority redevelopment scheme it is normal to let these shops for a specified range of trades, including foodshops. Where there is a reasonable demand the food trade appears ready to meet it. Developers for their part appear ready to let premises to grocers and butchers since they are likely to attract customers to the shopping area.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his reply, but he has dealt with only part of the difficulty. Is my noble friend aware that in a very great many cases development takes place only at the end, or towards the end, of existing leases, and there is then no compensation for the trader who has been a tenant and whose lease has come to an end? Is my noble friend further aware that, when certain buildings have been re-let, the people responsible for the letting have stipulated that although shops are on the street level, no food shop shall be included? And what does he intend to do about that sort of situation?
My Lords, as regards my noble friend's first point, I 796 would mention to him that Section 30 of the Land Compensation Act, 1960, empowers local authorities to make ex gratia payments at their discretion for trade disturbance in just the type of situation which he has envisaged, and my right honourable friend is satisfied that it is now common practice for local authorities to do so. I have no confirmation as regards my noble friend's second point, but I shall be very glad to look into it.
§ LORD DERWENT
My Lords, may I ask one further supplementary? May I have an undertaking from my noble friend that, as this is a matter which is likely to become more and more difficult as redevelopment goes on, it will be carefully watched by his Department?
My Lords, I am perfectly happy to give my noble friend that assurance. But I should also like to add that, so far as planned redevelopment is concerned, we are satisfied, on our present information, that local authorities are making satisfactory provision for shopping facilities, including food shops.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that once permission has been given to carry on the business of a shop of any kind in a particular area, there is nothing to prevent the owner of the shop from disposing of it for some other purpose entirely within the Use Classes Order? On the question which the noble Lord put, would the noble Earl consider whether it is really desirable that local authorities should be empowered to lay down definitely what kind of shop should be let within an area? It would be a tremendous departure from existing practice and should be adopted only with very great care.
My Lords, as regards the noble Lord's second point, broadly speaking I would agree with him. As regards his first point, I am aware of that; but is he also aware that if there is to be a change to a certain type of shop, planning permission is required? To refresh his memory, I would mention changes of shops to fried fish shops, tripe shops, shops for the sale of pet animals or birds, and cats' meat shops.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, is the noble Earl aware that, from a national point of view, the particular matter which has been raised by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is in some areas quite chaotic? The general basic powers to which the Minister refers seem to speak for themselves, but local practice varies greatly. As he knows, we have also had to watch Private Corporation Bills from time to time to prevent great injustices being done to those who operate under local administration of the Statute. And would it not be as well, perhaps, if the Government could arrange for either the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, or some other Member of your Lordships' House to initiate a general debate upon this situation? Because gradually the housewife with the shopping basket is being specially attracted to large centres in order that shops may undercut other traders by having a special kind of service. Then she has to lug all the stuff long distances back to her home. That the general trend. I think that the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, is to be congratulated on raising the point, but it is one that requires a good deal of debate.
My Lords, I do not think it is for me, but rather it is for my noble friend the Leader of the House, to reply to the point made by the noble Viscount on the need for further debate of this interesting and important subject. As regards the first point, I would say it is not my impression that the situation is chaotic in certain areas. If there are areas which are causing special difficulty I should be only too glad to look into them if I could have the facts.
§ LORD AIREDALE
My Lords, would Her Majesty's Government consider introducing here the system of shop rent which obtains, I think, in many cases in Canada, where in new development areas the rent is directly related to the shop's turnover? That encourages a shopkeeper to establish himself early, knowing that his rent will be low in the difficult early stages. It is popular, of course, with developers, who always foresee the success of their development schemes, and they can foresee ever-increasing rents accruing out of ever- 798 expanding turnover, which the shopkeeper pays with a smile.
I shall be glad to have that point looked into, but I think it happens now, in an empirical sort of way.
§ VISCOUNT ALEXANDER OF HILLSBOROUGH
My Lords, if that is so, I should like to know exactly how the initial rent is fixed, because at present, in a very large number of cases—I think the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, will agree—there is a very limited number of shops to a large housing area and often the shop goes to the highest bidder.