HC Deb 30 June 1808 vol 11 cc1122-6
Mr. Creevey

rose, in consequence of the notice he had given, for the purpose of bringing before the house the intended encroachments in Hyde Park. It would be unnecessary for him to endeavour to impress upon the house the great advantages which the population of this vast metropolis derived from having access to the three Parks. It was, therefore, a subject of considerable regret to him, to find there was a plan in contemplation for devoting a great part of Hyde Park to private edifices. It was a very ungracious thing in any officer to recommend to his majesty that certain parts of it should be granted out for such purposes. He would not deny that the king had the right of doing so; but when it was considered that within these few years the public had paid no less than 71,000l. for the improvement of the Parks, he could not help thinking that they had a pretty good claim to the use of them at least. It was said that the proposed plan would extend only to eight houses, but if the buildings were once begun, he was convinced the system would go on. These eight houses would not be the last. When on a former evening he made use of the word favouritism he did not mean to imply that any political favouritism was shewn by the Crown Surveyor; but he certainly did mean to say, that an improper preference was likely to be given by that person, and that some individuals nearly connected with him were to obtain that preference. It was no excuse to say, that persons whose political opinions did not accord with those of that gentleman, were also to obtain grants of the same kind. The object of his motion was the production of the correspondence between Mr. Fordyce and the lords of the Treasury, for the purpose of procuring their consent to the leases which he was about to execute. Should the correspondence be granted to him, it was his intention to follow it up by an address to his majesty, praying that he would be graciously pleased to leave Hyde Park in its present state.

Mr. Hanbury Tracey

seconded the motion. He censured the plan of curtailing Hyde Park; but if the measure was persevered in, he wished the chancellor of the exchequer would include him among those to whom lots were to be given.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

observed, that no ground had been laid for the motion, and that it would ill become the house to interpose between his majesty and the exercise of one of his undoubted rights. It was to be presumed that on this occasion he would act with the same beneficence and conscientious regard to the interests and convenience of his subjects that had marked the whole of his reign. There was no reason to suppose his majesty would make any improper grants. The plan, in fact, had not yet been submitted to him. It was only a few days ago that it was laid before the Treasury. With what propriety, therefore, in this stage of the business, could the hon. member call upon the house to interfere? There was no intention to convert the Park into a town, and for any purposes of sordid gain to turn that which was now used for recreation into streets. Such a project would meet, and deservedly, with general reprobation. But he could not see upon what grounds that house could call upon his majesty to refrain from the moderate exercise of an undoubted right. As to favouritism, he would assure the hon. gent, it was not intended to give an undue preference to any person. The grants were to be the subject of fair and open competition; and they who might succeed in obtaining them, would find, that they occupied the most expensive houses, by far, in the metropolis. As he had before observed, no case had been made out,' and he must, therefore, oppose the motion.

Mr. Windham

contended, that this was a subject, of all others, fit for the interposition of the house, and that this was precisely the moment when it should interpose. The plan, it appeared, was almost completely arranged, and if the house did not address his majesty now, they would have no other opportunity of doing so. By the time they next met, the houses probably would be half built, or, at least, so far advanced as to render it impossible to discontinue the plan. Against the plan he must enter his protest. He was not quite sure that his majesty possessed the right of disposing of the park in the way proposed. It would be a satisfaction to him to know how the crown and the public stood in that respect, and whether it had not given up the right which it was now intended to assert, in consequence of the payment from the Consolidated Fund. It was idle to suppose the plan would not go on if it were once begun, and that it would be limited to eight houses. These, houses would go on, co-operating with other houses, until it would be no longer a park. Indeed, it could scarcely be called so at present, for it was almost invested with houses. On one side there was Knightsbridge, grown into a considerable town; on another, Kensington. There was also a great town starting up on the northern side. Now, if in addition to these a number of houses should be erected, the power of vegetation would be completely destroyed. The park would no longer be that scene of health and recreation it formerly was. It was a saying of lord Chatham, that the parks were the lungs of London. He could devise no means more effectual for the destruction of these lungs than the proposed plan. The great increase of the metropolis might be attributed to the desire which every man felt to get as it were into the country; to go a little further towards it than his neighbour. He had heard of parks being decorated with grottos and temples, but here was a plan to decorate a park with houses; as if a citizen, who should leave Whitechapel on a Sunday evening to get a little fresh air, would feel much gratified when he arrived at Hyde-park to see nothing but houses, he would most probably think that he had seen enough of these in the course of his walk. Hyde park would not admit of being contracted, and he trusted that this plan of decorating it, by setting a few London houses in the midst of it, would be abandoned. He was glad of an opportunity of marking out these consequences. There were but few marks of royal splendour in the metropolis. Though he did not think so lowly of St. James's as others, yet still he must say, that if it did not look like a palace, it did not look like any thing else: certainly, not like a private house. That and the parks were the only signs that London was ever used as a royal residence. He protested therefore, against any project intended to convert these into a source of emolument. The inconvenience that would result from it would infinitely outweigh any advantage that would be derived from it. He was glad that this discussion had taken place. It would not be without its use, if it should prevent the execution of a plan which, to speak of its consequences in the mildest way, must at least produce very considerable dissatisfaction.

Mr. Sheridan

said, that agreeing as he did in every word which fell from his right hon. friend, he would only trouble the house with a few words. It was well known that he was extremely anxious to promote the improvement of the metropolis, and particularly of the city of Westminster; but in all the plans which he had supported and recommended in that view, it was a principle with him not to crib one inch from any of the parks. He could not conceive upon what grounds it was, that the surveyor of the crown lands supposed his majesty would give his concurrence to so ridiculous and unjust a plan, as that in contemplation. The park was already sufficiently encroached upon. Hamilton-place was both an encroachment and a nuisance. He had been to visit it that morning, and such a gibbet-like erection he never saw. It was all angles and projections. There was also that heavy lump, Bathurst House, which he could compare to nothing but a tub of brick. The plan, he understood, was to erect a number of houses parallel with Park-lane, but to build only opposite mean and low houses. But was not the mean house as dear to the proprietor, as the splendid mansions of lords Grosvenor and Petre were to those noblemen? Did he not, in fact, pay an additional price for the view as well as his wealthier neighbour, and why was he to be deprived of it? If this plan were carried into effect, the proprietors of these new houses would naturally throw their best rooms towards the park, and put their stables and other nuisances towards Park-lane. It would be a less objectionable plan to build on both sides of Rotten-row, that gentlemen might take their morning rides there, and have the advantage of being gazed at by the ladies in the balconies. If the right hon. gentleman would have the candour to assure the house that nothing further would be done in this business until the next session, he would recommend his hon. friend to withdraw his motion. Before he sat down, he would embrace the opportunity of apprising the house, that in the course of the next session it was his intention to bring forward the motion respecting the improvement of the metropolis, of which he had given notice two years ago, but which he afterwards dropped in consequence of some objections on the score of economy from the administration with which he was then connected.

Mr. Creevey

professed his willingness to withdraw his motion upon the assurance suggested by his right hon. friend.

The Chancellor of the Exchequer

said, that consistently with his duty, and the view he took of the subject, he would give no such assurance.

Mr. Huskisson

said, that so far from the plan being completely arranged, he had only heard of it about a week ago.

A division then took place: Ayes 23;Noes 36.—Majority against the motion 13.