HC Deb 03 February 1970 vol 795 cc205-6
28. Mr. Channon

asked the Secretary of State for Local Government and Regional Planning if he will make a statement about the deputation he received from representatives of the Victorian Society, the Georgian Group, the hon. Members for Southend, West, and Barking and others about the Government's proposed redevelopment of Whitehall; and if it is now proposed to hold a public inquiry into the scheme which involves the demolition of Richmond Terrace and Scotland Yard.

Mr. Crosland

I am considering the views expressed by the deputation, and a statement will be made shortly.

Mr. Channon

Would the Secretary of State agree that there has been a great deal of public concern about this? Is it not time that the Government came forward with a statement, which is awaited with considerable anxiety?

Mr. Crosland

I am certainly aware that there has been public concern. I hope that the hon. Member, who was kind enough to attend with the deputation, will agree that it had a very sympathetic reception from the Government. Suppose that we were to decide on an inquiry, there would still be quite complex matters to be decided as to its form, its timing and its scope.

Mr. Driberg

In thanking my right hon. Friend for the sympathetic reception he gave to the deputation, may I ask if he is fully aware of the need both for speed in going ahead with the parliamentary extension, but also for great care in the planning of the Government precinct as a whole? For the latter purpose, is not a full-scale planning commission the best thing?

Mr. Crosland

I am aware of the points my hon. Friend has put, but the notion of a planning inquiry commission, which has been put to me by the amenity bodies, raises in practice a number of very considerable difficulties.

Mr. John Smith

If there is to be an inquiry, could it please be broad enough to consider whether the State should any longer be exempted from its own general planning legislation and whether the office work of Government needs to be done in central London at all?

Mr. Crosland

The second part of the question was of course considered exhaustively in the original Martin Buchanan Plan. On the other part, it is not correct, although it is frequently stated, that the Government are exempt from normal planning requirements. In this case the Government received planning permission from Westminster City Council.