HC Deb 09 June 1953 vol 516 cc6-7
12. Sir Edward Keeling

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he is aware of the public apprehension caused by the proposal to erect an office block of 14 storeys to a height of almost 170 feet, near the east end of St. Paul's Cathedral; and whether he will make a statement.

Mr. H. Macmillan

I believe that the building which my hon. Friend has in mind is Bucklersbury House, about a quarter of a mile to the east of St. Paul's. Decision on the plans of new buildings is, in general, a matter for the local planning authority, and there is appeal to me only if approval is withheld. I understand that, after consultation with the Royal Fine Art Commission, the City Corporation have given planning permission for this project, and the plans do not, therefore, have to be referred to me.

Sir E. Keeling

May I ask my right hon. Friend two questions? First, is he aware that this building is to be nearly 20 feet higher than Queen Anne's Mansions and that it will be in the centre of the City which will, therefore, be dominated by it instead of, as at present, by St. Paul's. Is not that the most lamentable proposal? Secondly, is my right hon. Friend aware that the Royal Fine Art Commission has expressed disapproval of the scheme?

Mr. Macmillan

My information is that the Royal Fine Art Commission was consulted and did not disapprove, but I will look further into that. I must point out to my hon. Friend and to the House that it is not my duty. If a local planning authority prevents such an action and somebody appeals, then I have the right to grant the appeal. It is not my duty to go about stopping people.

Mrs. White

Is not the Minister aware that any site within a quarter of a mile of St. Paul's Cathedral is of national interest? Even if he has no statutory powers cannot the Minister use his undoubtedly very great influence in this matter?

Mr. Macmillan

Yes, I will do that.

Colonel Gomme-Duncan

Is not it a matter for gratification that out of the troubles of the war at least one thing good has happened, and that is that St. Paul's Cathedral can now be seen? Should we not take every step to see that it is not hidden again like it used to be?