HC Deb 07 June 1875 vol 224 cc1464-6

asked the honourable and gallant Member for Truro, Whether it is not the fact that the space originally let by the Metropolitan Board of Works to the parties whose tender was accepted, and afterwards acquired by Mr. Mapleson for a consideration of £10,000, or thereabouts, for the purposes of the National Opera House, contained about 42,466 superficial feet; whether the ground now at Mr. Mapleson's disposal for building purposes, taking into account the recent concession of the Metropolitan Board as to advance of building frontage, but excluding the two roadways, one on either side, does not comprise about 47,816 superficial feet; and whether, consequently, Mr. Mapleson is not now in possession of an additional area of 5,350 feet, or, if the area of the two side roads continued from the building frontage to the Embankment be deducted, even then 2,350 feet; whether if, as recently stated, in reply to a Question in this House, no consideration is to be paid for this increased accommodation, it will not practically be given at the expense of the ratepayers of the metropolis; whether the area recently conceded is not more valuable than that originally let, by reason of its better position in relation to the Thames Embankment, and if its value will not be further increased by the two side roads proposed to be made; whether 40 feet is not the minimum width of roads under the Building Act; and, if he could state to the House what reason was given by Mr. Mapleson for his inability to purchase the two houses in Cannon Row, and whether any steps were taken to ascertain the accuracy of his statement?


Sir, before answering the hon. Member, I must express my surprise and regret that, without waiting for my reply, he has thought it right to prejudge the question in his letter which I read in The Times of to-day—a course which I think is a most unusual one for a Member to take. ["Order."] I think so. As regards the consideration stated to have been paid by Mr. Mapleson to the parties whose tender was originally accepted, the hon. Member appears to have information not possessed by me. I know nothing of such a consideration. I have had the facts again carefully looked into and the areas measured, and I am informed that the space originally let was 59,733 square feet. That let to Mr. Mapleson was precisely the same, only, in consideration of his giving up land for roadways, it is proposed to allow him to advance his line of frontage. The roads are to be extended to the Embankment, and will occupy 11,920 square feet, while the additional area available for building purposes is only 11,560 square feet; so that, as I explained in my former Answer, Mr. Mapleson actually cedes 360 square feet. Under these circumstances, I cannot see that the ratepayers will suffer loss by the altered arrangements. As regards the value of the land, I may state that the original tender was in excess of the valuation of the Board's architect, and the Board has every reason to believe that the land is now let at a fair rental. Even if its value should be increased by the side roads, which is a matter of opinion, this will be fully compensated for by the additional public convenience. As to the width of the roads, it is true that 40 feet is the usual width of roads intended for carriage traffic; but if the hon. Member will refer to See. 99 of the Metropolis Local Management Amend- ment Act, 1862, he will find that the Metropolitan Board of Works possesses a discretionary power. I have to add, in reply to the last portion of this very long Question, that the Board was informed that Mr. Mapleson was unable to obtain the two houses in Cannon Row. In conclusion, I must repeat what I said on the former occasion—that if the alteration had not been made in the disposition of the land, it would have been necessary to build the Opera House sideways to the Embankment, by which the architectural effect would have been greatly impaired, and the Board was naturally anxious to secure the erection of a building which should be an ornament to the Embankment and a credit to the metropolis.


gave Notice that in consequence of the unsatisfactory nature of the Answer he had received he would, on the Motion for going into Committee of Supply on Friday, the 18th instant, again call attention to the subject, and move a Resolution.