Column 558pressure for more new housing, especially in the Cambridge area and the Huntingdonshire towns and villages of the Ouse valley ; the expansion of Stansted airport ; the growth of high technology industries in the Cambridge area ; and major changes in transport, such as the completion of the M11 and the A45 Cambridge northern bypass.
To respond to those challenges, the county council submitted proposals for a replacement plan. An examination in public was held in October 1987. That process involved people being able to put their views to a public inquiry. The panel's report was presented to the Secretary of State in January 1988.
As my hon. Friends will know, the Secretary of State announced proposed modifications to the plan in July 1988. Those modifications were the subject of consultation. The consultation period was originally to expire at the end of September, but, because of the postal dispute, it was extended until the end of October. As I have said, the points that have been raised tonight will count as points raised in the consultation.
We hope that, by the beginning of next year--probably in January--it will be possible to come forward with our conclusions on what is obviously a difficult issue, as such planning issues normally are.
Sir Antony Buck (Colchester, North) : I have a loose connection with the matter. My hon. Friend the Member for Cambridgeshire, South-West (Sir A. Grant) has made a devastating case. Will my hon. Friend the Minister assure the House that what has been said this evening will be taken fully into consideration when the report is finally made?
Mr. Chope : I am able to give an unequivocal assurance that everything that has been said this evening will be taken into account as evidence in the case. That does not mean that, when the conclusions are announced, they will necessarily be word for word what my hon. Friends wish to hear. Obviously, I cannot prejudge the matter. I am at great pains this evening not to say anything that could be taken to demonstrate that we have already reached a conclusion on any of the issues.
This has been a well-timed debate. My hon. Friends have been able to make their points, and they will be taken fully into account. I cannot say more than that. Obviously, the points having been made in such a way, they will carry considerable weight.
The problems of reconciling the need to increase the number of houses in Cambridgeshire with the problems of where to locate them are not easily resolved. We shall have to reach a final conclusion over the next few weeks. It is as frustrating for me as it is for my hon. Friends to know that we cannot take the debate any further this evening, but I assure the House that we shall reach a decision as soon as possible.
Once again I congratulate my hon. Friend on initiating the debate and on getting the timing absolutely right. In his own inimitable style, he ensured that the arguments were cogently put.
Question put and agreed to.
Adjourned accordingly at fourteen minutes past Twelve o'clock.
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