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" Merthyr Express" Diary.…




THE TOWN-PLANNING AND HOUSING BILL. THE Town!-Planning and Housing Bill, intro- duced by the President of the Local Government Board and read a second time in the House of Commons, on Thursday in last week, is a measure that comes somewhat late in the day for an old country like ours to achieve for our towns what a law to the same purport has accomplished for Germany during the last thirty or forty years. Still, the old adage, Better late than never," holds good with regard to this measure for ourselves, and should it become law, as is extremely probable. though with various modifications in the proposals, it will place a great power for the amelioration of the conditions of living in which the town populations are at present helplessly fixdd in the hands of the Local Government Board and local authorities. The commer- cial and industrial development of the country has proceeded too far, we fear, for the creation of many absolutely new towns, or even to edect the conversion of our old ones into new ones altogether; but, for all that, a vast field of useful influence remains in the mere extensions which. must, take place in every important tradings pentre which looks forward to years of further progress. The oii potfer to be conferred upon local authorities to acquire land compulsorily for the building of needful houses for the working classes, without recourse to the dilatory and costly processes which at present hinder and hamper such transactions, will be an immense boon; and the power to require the proper planning in their entirety of estates to be let or sold for building purposes is not less important. How many, even of our towns of modern creation, in spite of sanitary regulations for ventilation, water and drainage in separate cases of streets and houses, have grown up as perfect jumbles for want of the exercise of some controlling authority over the manner in which the building land shall be laid out as a whole. BY the new Bill it is intended to confer such control upon our Town and District Councils, so that, where there is likely to be a very considerable increase of population for which housing accommodation will be required, it will be competent for the local authority to go into the market themselves and acquire the land and build the houses, if there should be any deficiency in private enterprise in these respects. Supposing that private enterprise is ready to undertake the duty, still the authority can insist upon the area upon which the new town or village is to arise being properly planned and laid out as a whole, with adequate open spaces and the allocation of different classes of houses to particular sections, instead of pitchforking cottages and villas, and dwellings of greater pretensions still into one disorderly, incongrnous grouping. The mining districts of South Wales and Monmouthshire arc full of examples of the miserable outcome, architec- turally, and from a spectacular and aesthetic point of view as well, of the absence in the past of central controlling authorities, empowered to insist upon having the future townships created in imagination and properly set forth in plans and drawings before work begins, and an eligible situation for a town of genuine pretensions to taste and beauty is practically destroyed. We need not mention particular cases, as there are enough to recur to the mind of readers in every part of the district. We have also some striking examples of the converse. In different paits of the country, where wealthy landowners like Lord Bute, Lord Tredegar, the, Duke of Devonshire, and others, have exercised their individual powers in this way, we can see by. the results how important it is for the future of a town, whether small or great, that it should be built upon a well-ordered plan which provides for the proper classification of different types of houses, for residence or business, so that 'every type presents to the eye of the beholder evidence of adequate consideration for the requirements of the people who are to occupy them, in proportion to their means and circum- stances. By this means the value of the land can be realised to its highest extent, and everybody interested, the owner, the tenant, and the community at large, shares the benefit of the aggregate results. THERE is sure to be an outcry from landowneis and land agents against the proposal to set up the Local Government Board as the sole deter- mining authority for fixing the value of a piece of land. It does seem arbitrary, but, on the other hand, we have the universal experience of every person and every authority concerned in the acquisition of land by compulsion, that the present means of ascertaining and deter- mining the value are shamefully circumlocu- tionary, extravagant, ■ and costly. The only alternative to acceptance of the owners' own terms is a process oi arbitraland everybody who has had experience of tins method o* ^ft^iftjng yaju^sjsc^s it iicunjJjrpu? r ind costly to the last degree, and can fairly be lescribed as extortion under the law. The troops of expensive people employed in this way to get at the worth of a piece of land, whose market value is almost obvious, art* enough to drive most authorities, purchasing from necessity, to make the best of a bad job by agreeing with the owner. The proposal to substitute an arbitrary valuer by the Local Government Board to fix the value without reference to professional witnesses, solicitors. 3r counsel, will appear to such persons as revolutionary, especially with the abolition of the ten per cent. extra for compulsion." It is a great innovation indeed, but there will be little disagreement that something of the kind, is called for as a -Corrective of existing abuses jf unlimited power over land required for public conveniences. The drastic proposition )f the Bill on this point may be modified before t passes through both Houses but the necessity some protection for the public authorities igainst the extortions to which they are now iable, and arc frequently subjected, is generally icknowledged, and, therefore, they are likely :o scoure it under this Bill.


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