HC Deb 12 March 1886 vol 303 cc627-8
MR. INCE (Islington, E.)

asked the honourable Member for Launceston, as an Ecclesiastical Commissioner, Whether the Ecclesiastical Commissioners have sold or let, or are ready to sell or let, any sites of land, in London or elsewhere, at reasonable rates, for the erection of artizans' dwellings, in accordance with the powers given to them and other corporations by the Housing of the Working Classes Act of last year; whether a site belonging to them, near Bream's Buildings, Chancery Lane, was formerly occupied by poor people; whether the Commissioners did not, several years ago, pull down the dwellings and eject the poor people; how many poor people were so ejected; how many years the land has now been vacant; whether they have received applications, both with respect to this site and elsewhere, for land for artizans' dwellings; whether they are now prepared to let this and other sites for that purpose; and, if so, whether they will at once make known their intention; and, whether, until the site near Bream's Buildings is actually let for building, they will take away the high railings and allow the site to be used as a playground?

THE SECRETARY (Mr. C. T. ACLAND) (Cornwall, Launceston)

The Ecclesiastical Commissioners have from time to time sold or let on building leases various sites for the erection of artizans' dwellings in the Metropolis. In most of these cases the sale or letting took place before the passing of the Act of last year, and before the sitting of the late Royal Commission on the Housing of the Poor. There are upwards of 20 of these sites. The total, number of the tenements for which these sales and lettings were designed to provide may be taken as nearly 2,000. In the year 1879 some ground, near to, and comprising the place then known as Bream's Buildings, Chancery Lane, had come on the expiry of leases gradually into the possession of the Commissioners. It was covered with small tenements of a very miserable description and occupied by a dense population living in degrading circumstances, and having a considerable admixture of the criminal classes. These may have numbered 1,000 persons. The Commissioners, in co-operation with the Metropolitan Board of Works and the City Commissioners of Sewers, took measures for clearing this area as circumstances permitted, and have formed a new street through, the centre of the same and of adjoining properties. The present proximity of the Royal Courts of Justice to this ground has caused a special demand for additional offices in this neighbourhood, and a portion of the frontage has been let for that purpose. The opening of the new street has been effected between three and four years, and a portion of the total adjoining area, which comprises about half-an-acre, has already been let for the erection of offices. The Commissioners have not received any applications for the appropriation of any part of this area as a site for artizans' dwellings except from a single individual—a Mr. J. Theodore Dodd, a barrister. His inquiry was of a very general character, and he was informed that the Commissioners did not regard the ground referred to as suitable for the purpose contemplated. There is in the vicinity of the vacant ground above referred to other land, at present covered with old houses, which is partly in the Commissioners' possession, and which they would be prepared to let for the erection of artizans' dwellings if a definite and practical proposal were submitted to them. The Commissioners do not consider it would be proper to take away the existing high fence by which their ground near the late Bream's Buildings was protected in order to allow it to be used as a playground. They have, in fact, been under the necessity of increasing the height and strength of the fence in order to obviate the nuisances complained of by adjacent occupiers.