§ Order for consideration, read.
§ MR. AINSLIE (Lancashire, N., Lonsdale)
I understand that this Bill is likely to interfere with the Lewisham Recreation Ground. I should, therefore, like to have an assurance from the hon. Member for Darlington (Mr. J. Fry), who was Chairman of the Select Committee by whom it was inquired into, that it will do no harm.
§ MR. T. FRY (Darlington)
In reply to the question which has been asked in reference to this Bill, I wish, as Chairman of the Committee, to say that the opposition to it was based upon a very slender foundation indeed. The Railway proposed to be constructed is promoted in the interests of the London, Chatham, and Dover Railway Company 1091 in order to avoid the necessity of passing through Penge tunnel, which is an awkward tunnel for the service of the railway. It does pass through a narrow neck of land which has been set apart for the recreation of the people of Lewisham; but the district Board of Health of Lewisham are in favour of the Bill, and it excites but a very small amount of opposition. The piece of land which it is proposed to take is of an irregular character, very much in the shape of the figure 8; the river Ravens-bourne runs through a portion of it, and it is proposed to cross that river by an ornamental bridge. The quantity of land taken is ¼of an acre, and the Railway Company propose to give five times the amount—namely, 1¼ acre in return. As I have said, the opposition to the Bill was of a very minute character, and the only opposition of any consequence was that of the London County Council, who desire to preserve the land as an open space. The Committee were quite unanimous that the Bill ought to be passed, and I believe they have as much interest in the preservation of open spaces as any hon. Member in this House. The only alternative to the scheme of the railway, company is to take a piece of land immediately outside the recreation ground, which would probably be at once covered with a small class of houses of a rental value of not more than £30 or £40 a year. It is now proposed to construct an embankment and to plant it with shrubs and trees and make it ornamental in its character. In this way it will add to rather than detract from the attractions of the recreation ground. For these reasons I trust that the House will pass the Bill.
§ MR. HOWELL (Bethnal Green, N.E.) ,
in moving that the Bill be taken into consideration on this day six months, said: I understand that this Bill is opposed by the London County Council.
§ MR. HOWELL
That is what I understand, and that it was at the instance of the London County Council that my hon. Friend the Member for Shoreditch opposed the Second Reading on the last occasion. If the London County Council are satisfied with the lend proposed to be substituted for this small piece, of course a considerable amount of the objection will be removed. 1092 I have always thought that it is most undesirable to allow any portion of a recreation ground to be cut through by a railway and its character entirely altered in consequence, and I confess that I am not quite satisfied with the explanation of the company in regard to this Bill.
§ * MR. KERANS (Lincoln)
In reply to the hon. Member for Bethnal Green (Mr. Howell), I wish to state a few facts which I hope will influence him. In the first place, the hon. Member does not seem to be aware that there is a railway already running through this ground, and that it was a question whether to tunnel under that line or to make a bridge over it. The Committee upon the Bill sat for four days, and came to the decision that, taking into consideration all the circumstances, the proposed line, instead of being a drawback, would decidedly be of advantage to the recreation ground. Upon the land just outside the recreation ground it is only possible to erect houses of a very small description, and every winter the land itself is flooded. So far as the Committee could gather, the land proposed to be given in exchange for that taken away will be of infinitely greater value.
§ * MR. KERANS
Yes. Perhaps I may be allowed to state a somewhat extraordinary circumstance connected with this piece of land. It has actually been given to the London County Council by a gentleman who very strongly supports the Bill, and not only has he given this plot, but he has also given two acres more, or thereabouts, through which the river runs, which is supposed to give such charming features to the site. I really think, that although our love for open spaces should be as great as possible, it ought to be controlled by a certain amount of reason. So far as the Committee could see, the erection of this bridge will do no harm whatever to the recreation ground. Mr. Harrison, and various other members of the London County Council who gave evidence, assented to the proposition that as a matter of fact it was not the bridge that was objected to as much as the embankment outside. The evidence offered on behalf of the opponents was of the most trifling character. Every single landlord throughout the 1093 district was in favour of it, as also was every public body affected except the London County Council. Even the two local members who sit in the Council are in favour of it. At public meetings petitions have been adopted in support of it, and except the extreme care which the London County Council manifested for the preservation of open spaces, there was no opposition to the Bill that was really worth considering. I hope that the hon. Member for Bethnal Green will withdraw his opposition and allow the Bill to go to another place, where I am sure that every argument that can be adduced in opposition to it will be fully heard.
§ * MR. FIRTH (Dundee)
The London Council did oppose this Bill in Committee. They opposed it upon a ground which they have taken successfully in -regard to another Bill, and which they intend to take in respect to all Bills in future—namely, that where a railway company or any Public Authority propose, without their consent, prejudicially to affect recreation grounds and open spaces placed under their control they will defend the public interest. In this ease the question was, shortly, whether this proposed railway would prejudicially affect the Lewisham recreation ground. The opinion of the Lewisham Local Authorities can scarcely be regarded as being of vital importance, seeing that they are more concerned in the increased ratable value of property which the construction of a railway generally brings than in preserving intact open spaces which have been largely paid for out of the public money. The question before the Committee was whether this railway would prejudicially affect this open space as an open space, and there was, in the first instance, some reason to believe that it had been selected by the railway company because they were likely to obtain it cheaper than the adjoining land. The Bill as it left the Committee contained a proposal to carry the railway, by means of a bridge, across this open space, and the hon. Member for Darlington and the hon. Gentleman opposite (Mr. Kerans) have suggested that a bridge would be of advantage, and that, so far from objecting, we ought to be thankful to the railway company for the proposal they have made. If my hon Friend carries his opposition to a Division, I shall sup 1094 port him; but if not, the London Council will, in the same interests and for the same object which induced them to oppose the Bill in Committee, carry their opposition elsewhere.
§ * MR. MOSS (Winchester)
Perhaps I may be allowed to say, having served on the Committee to which the Bill was referred, that the inhabitants of Lewisham, the public officials, the Board of Health, and every one connected with the town are in favour of the measure. Public meetings have been held in support of it, and some of the most influential inhabitants appeared before the Committee, and gave evidence in its favour. It was opposed only by the London County Council, who have no special interest in the neighbourhood, and who simply called one or two of their own officers, who gave evidence upon a matter which they clearly did not understand. The piece of land which has been set apart for a recreation ground is a portion of a hill connected by a narrow neck of land 90 feet wide, with a larger portion below, which lower portion is already bounded by a line of railway, and it is proposed to cross this neck by an ornamental bridge. The embankment for the proposed line is outside this land altogether, so that but for this narrow strip over which the railway bridge will pass, the London County Council would have had no locus standi. The company have agreed to give 1¼ acres of land for the quarter of an acre they take, and the embankment is to be laid out ornamentally with walks, and shrubs, and trees, and over which the public will have full rights. The Committee gave the subject their serious attention, and came to the conclusion that the Bill ought to pass. It is unfortunate that the London County Council should have commenced their career by opposing everything that is brought before them. I am afraid that the "appointed day" which called the Council into existence, may be found not to have been without an appropriate meaning if this sort of thing is to go on.
§ MR. HOWELL
As the London County Council intend to carry their opposition to another place, I think it is hardly necessary to divide the House on this occasion.
Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
§ Bill considered, and ordered to be read a third time.