HC Deb 30 March 1933 vol 276 cc1181-2

asked the First Commissioner of Works what action the Government are taking, in connection with the London County Council or otherwise, to protect the amenities of the Palace of Westminster and Westminster Abbey against the erection of excessively tall buildings in their immediate vicinity?


asked the First Commissioner of Works whether his attention has been called to the report of the town planning committee of the London County Council dealing with the danger to the amenities of Parliament Square of certain projected new buildings; and what action he intends to take?


My attention has been drawn to the recent action of the London County Council in passing a resolution authorising the preparation of a town planning scheme for an area in the City of Westminster including Parliament Square, Old Palace Yard and Abingdon Street. I understand that this action has arisen out of proposals for the erection of office buildings on sites in Abingdon Street and Great George Street. Under the terms of the Town and Country Planning Act, 1932, any such scheme must be submitted to the Minister of Health, who will take into consideration any representations received from the Commissioners of Works with regard to the proposal.

I may add that so far as the Abingdon Street proposal is concerned, the First Commissioner of Works already possesses statutory powers giving him a very considerable measure of control over the elevation and height of any buildings to be erected on that site. I am not aware, however, whether any detailed plans and elevations have yet been prepared, and I am therefore not yet in a position to express any opinion on the proposals. As regards the Great George Street proposal, the Commissioners of Works have no control except in such matters as rights of light and easements as arise out of the ownership of the land in Parliament Square immediately adjacent to the site in question.


I understand, then, that no application has been made to the Office of Works in this matter? The right hon. Gentleman made a reference to the Ministry of Health having certain powers under the Act. To which Act did he refer?


I was referring to the Town and Country Planning Act of last year. The first step, clearly, is for any proposal by the private owners for rebuilding on these sites to go to the London County Council; it then goes from them to the Minister of Health who, before giving his decision, will consult my Department.


Can the right hon. Gentleman give an assurance that every possible step will be taken to see that there is no repetition of what has happened in Carlton-house Terrace?

Lieut.-Commander AGNEW

Will the First Commissioner say whether he has control over the architectural style of any new buildings on the Abingdon Street site?


No, I do not think I have any control, except over the actual height, and the general character of the elevation in relation to the surrounding buildings. I cannot prohibit all building there altogether.


May I ask whether the Great George Street land is not in the ownership of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and if the House has no control over the operations of those Commissioners?


I understand that the bulk, but not all, of the Abingdon Street site is in the ultimate ownership of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, but there is one private owner who owns three houses. The Great George Street site is, I believe, a private freehold.