HC Deb 26 June 1956 vol 555 cc240-2
12. Mr. Kershaw

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government whether he will now take steps to forbid the erection in Battersea Park, at a cost of £50,000, of a high tower, in view of the desirability of reducing unnecessary and unproductive building work.

32. Wing Commander Bullus

asked the Minister of Housing and Local Government what were his reasons for granting planning permission for the erection of a tower in the Battersea fun fair.

Mr. Sandys

I apologise for the fact that this is a very long answer.

The proposed tower in Battersea Park has been criticised by some on the ground that it is unnecessary and that, therefore, in the present economic situation, the expenditure involved is undesirable. That may be quite true. But it has no relevance to my decision. Planning controls were never intended by Parliament to be used for regulating capital investment, and it would be quite improper and impracticable to try and use them for that purpose.

The tower is also objected to on the ground that it will be an unsightly and incongruous feature. There are many people, and I am one of them, who think that Battersea Park was not the best place to choose for a fun fair. But rightly or wrongly, Parliament so decided, and thereby accepted the inevitable disturbance of the peaceful character of the park and river bank.

In the setting of a popular amusement garden it is difficult to maintain that an illuminated tower is out of place; and having regard to the illuminated landing-stage, coloured flood-lighting, Chinese lanterns, switch-back, water chute and other fun fair attractions, not to mention the neighbouring chimneys and gasometer, which are very much higher, I honestly do not believe that the addition of this tower will appreciably affect the amenities of the park or the general character of the scene.

The new tower may not be a thing of great beauty, but there is no need for it to be an eye-sore; and I have no doubt that it will give pleasure to a great many people.

Mr. Kershaw

Whilst appreciating that my right hon. Friend has taken his decision in this matter on town planning and not on financial grounds, is he aware that there are those who think that he has been misled by the London County Council in this matter, because not until yesterday afternoon did anybody at the L.C.C.—either the panel or the Town Planning Committe or the Council itself—ever consider this matter, and the only person who has done so, as far as I know, is the Chairman of the Committee?

Mr. Sandys

First, I am assured that the procedure followed in the London County Council—though its internal affairs are not my business—was correct. In any case, I am not seeking to shelter behind the L.C.C. I accept full responsibility for my decision, and the views of the London County Council were only one of a large number of considerations which I took into account.

Wing Commander Bullus

Is my right hon. Friend aware that, in all the circumstances, most people will think the Minister's decision at least a reasonable one? Could he tell us the height of the tower and how it compares, for instance, with the well-known tower at Blackpool?

Mr. Sandys

The new tower will be about 160 feet. I understand that the tower at Blackpool is more than three times as high. Furthermore, I think it is worth mentioning that the Battersea tower will be to some extent screened by trees up to about half its height.

Mr. Mitchison

If this expenditure is against the national interest and the result will be as ugly as the right hon. Gentleman says, why does he not reintroduce building controls to stop this kind of thing instead of clamping down on public libraries and rural sewerage schemes?

Mr. Sandys

I do not think we want to make this into a party issue.