HC Deb 14 July 1983 vol 45 cc1091-102

Motion made, and Question proposed, That this House do now adjourn.—[Mr. Donald Thompson.]

8.55 pm
Mr. Simon Hughes (Southwark and Bermondsey)

The matter before the House concerns nothing less than the life blood of this capital. The subject that I have chosen for debate is Hay's wharf, its future, and that of the Thames riverside.

I shall first define the area. It stretches from Vauxhall Cross in the west, along the south bank of the river to the north side of the borough of Lambeth, into the borough of Southwark and down to Surrey docks. The area includes, because the two banks are interrelated, the dockland areas in the east end of that stretch on the north side of the river. The areas have become particularly inter-related of late because both come under the control, at least in part, of the London docklands development corporation.

This stretch of the Thames riverside has recently been the subject of some of the most amazing—I choose my words carefully — decisions in our city's planning history. They began with the consideration that was given to the Vauxhall Cross site. That resulted in a decision, by a new procedure without a proper public inquiry, to have predominantly office development on a site in north Lambeth. Since then, on a sequence of sites, permission has been granted or approved, primarily overseen by successive Secretaries of State for the Environment in this and previous Governments, for millions of square feet of office space, which I would say is not justified by any demand factors of which this House is aware.

What should be the purpose of the planning of the Thames riverside? The advice given to the Secretary of State by the Royal Institute of British Architects only last year was that planning should seek to attain a balance between development and quality, which will require a deft touch in processing planning applications. The one thing that London has not seen of late is a deft touch. It has seen a sledgehammer approach to erect a wall of concrete and glass, which will separate the community of our capital from the riverside that is its home, its employment, its view, its past and its future.

On St. Valentine's day this year, two weeks before I entered the House, an article appeared in The Times with this headline: Developers may be building a South Bank white elephant". It stated: A new generation of property developers is now taking on a gamble at which even their predecessors of the 1973 boom and bust might have quaked. A massive 11 million sq ft of office space is now available in the City and central London. Companies like ICI, Esso and Blue Circle are deserting flagship office blocks in droves in search of small headquarters, or moves to the provinces. Yet developers now plan to increase London's estimated 210 million sq ft of office space by an unprecedented 32 million sq ft—three times what the '73 boom produced. Many of them have decided that the place to do that—one of the few remaining spaces where it is possible—is—the south bank. The article continues: But the sheer scale of the South Bank project, which could transform chunks of the river frontage … into sparkling ivory towers, has largely escaped public comment. I raise this subject on the Adjournment today so that it will no longer escape public comment. The House should have a reply to the question posed in that article. The South Bank cries out for development, but is 7 million sq ft of office accomodation too much for London and its community to swallow? The answer to that is an unequivocal yes. The communities south of the river are about to be trampled upon and the plans are, without doubt, too much for them to be asked to swallow. Indeed, there is a growing feeling even among the developers that the office space will not be occupied, and the statistics point away from any likelihood that the developers will be able properly to use the sites.

I take a catalogue of sites to identify the enormity of the problem. I start at Vauxhall bridge with Vauxhall Cross, and then proceed by way of a range of sites, 14 of which are in my constituency of Southwark and Bermondsey. The first is Coin street, straddling the border between Lambeth and Southwark, where applications have been made and inquiries held but no development has taken place. Applications have been made proposing 92,000 and 82,000 sq ft of office space respectively and there is now a legal dispute about the site.

One then proceeds to King's Reach, a development in which a hotel site was sold and the shell completed in 1976. The hotel company then went into liquidation. The shell was put up for sale and in 1978 an offer to purchase was made. Permission was granted for offices to be put in part of what had been intended as the hotel, but planning permission was refused for offices to be put into the rest of the hotel, so it has remained almost entirely empty. There it stands, neither hotel nor occupied offices. All that remains is the regular overhead passage of helicopters at 7 am on Sundays and at 8 am and 9 am on most weekdays. Even now, there are people living there—a pocket of people underneath, with empty office blocks, an empty hotel and the noise of the helicopters as their surrounding environment.

Next comes a vacant site on the edge of Blackfriars road, where no work has started. There is then the empty Bankside power station. If it is demolished, the site could be put to community use, but there is a risk that the Central Electricity Generating Board may wish to sell it too, to developers for office use.

Next comes east Bankside, which is a site of historic importance. It is where the Globe theatre used to be. It is near other sites of historic community importance, in a borough that has existed as such and been represented here since 1295. Southwark is the borough of Chaucer and, later, of Shakespeare and Dickens. It was the borough of London's entertainment, life and, later, wealth. Even the east Bankside development which, in many ways, is the most acceptable and desirable, includes office space.

On Southwark bridge road there are vacant buildings and office space is planned. European Ferries in Bankside has now begun demolishing the St. Mary Overy dock. It is a historic dock, by the side of Southwark cathedral. European Ferries is demolishing some of the most historic, interesting and beautiful back streets in our heritage to create a tourist attraction and a great deal of office space. That is not entirely to be rejected and despised but the plans do not preserve the character and quality or enhance the great potential of that site.

Next comes Courage's in Park street. That brewery has been part of south London's brewing tradition for more than 200 years. The site is now empty because Courage has moved away for various reasons, one being the lack of infrastructure to enable it to continue on that site. The company also suffered from the site having a high rateable value and high rates. There was also the inability to expand to provide local employment because it was not able to take over other sites. Fortunately, the site has been taken over. If the takeover and the plans are successfully implemented, we shall have housing and light industrial use on that site.

The sites continue past smaller wharves until we reach Hay's wharf, which has triggered this debate. It is an extremely important site, from London bridge to Tower bridge. It has lain almost derelict for years. It was the subject of a planning inquiry two years ago which dealt with an application for more than 2 million square feet of office space. The inspector recommended, and then the Secretary of State approved, 750,000 sq ft of office space. Last week, without another public inquiry, plans and proposals advanced by the LDDC, which had not been revealed to local people were approved by ministerial order. Under the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980 the House approved planning by special development order.

The Secretary of State sits in his office on this side of the river. He is a member of a party that has no support, bar a few incidental voters, in any of the places that we are dealing with. He belongs to a party that has been rejected time after time by the people and the communities that we are discussing. He gave his approval, so that planning permission for a scheme was thereby automatically granted. Hay's wharf is a private site and suddenly, about two weeks after taking office, the Secretary of State granted permission for 2.25 million sq ft of office space on the Hay's wharf site. That is 10 times the space that has been allowed for any other use. There will be minimal retail use and less than 400 homes, although other amenities are to be built into it. The plan worries even the Tower of London authorities across the river because it will spoil the view across the Thames. The people who just happen to live in Tooley street and the people who just happen to have been brought up in north Southwark have had no proper chance to say whether the plans are the type of development that they want.

Then we move down the river, past the place where tradition has it that Bill Sykes killed himself. The land at Surrey docks was taken by the docklands corporation by an order passed in the House, without anyone knowing the plans. As I predicted in a speech in the House in March, the original plans were discarded by the corporation, which has adopted others. Even on the corner of the Rotherhithe tunnel a small site put up for public competition will have offices built on it. It is a tragedy that, one by one, the remaining pieces of land on the south bank are being developed in this way. I was brought up to believe that land belonged to the people, and that the people should use it for pleasure and to gain employment and resources. However, the prospect facing many of those people is not one of the river, by the side of which they were brought up, but of office blocks beside the river separating the community from it.

It is increasingly accepted that wholesale redevelopment is a destructive, not productive, force in regenerating inner city communities. This community is crying out for shops, small-scale housing and workshops. At lunchtime today I talked to representatives of the private firms along the riverside who have an interest in this part of the river. They said that there was no shortage of demand for their work, but that they need some help. They wish to ensure that they are not penalised by high rates or by other restrictive practices. They know that there is a demand, and that if they cannot respond to it, trade will go to other ports in Britain or to ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp. Then we would be left with schemes that will result in office blocks being erected quickly, but without any guarantee that they can be let. One of the especially harmful effects of the order, and of the planning procedures now being implemented, is that there is no time limit on the building of those blocks. With normal planning requirements local authorities may impose a time limit, but the plans for this development could lie on file for 15 or 20 years and no one could challenge the development of the sites. That is completely different from previous planning practice.

That is one result of the special development order procedure, which is not designed to allow private gain but is designed for non-controversial matters, such as service stations on motorways or other garages. However, that procedure has been used twice in relation to Thameside development, and, it is threatened, will be used again to ensure that there is no consultation for mammoth development schemes that are completely inappropriate to the area around them.

Southwark borough council tells me that small units of less than 1,000 sq ft are now being sought, successfully developed and let. There is demand, which is reflected by the greater London strategic plan and by the local authorities' proposals for the area. They are draft proposals in a draft north Southwark district plan. I do not agree with all of them, but at least they reflect the views of the local authority and, in large part, the aspirations of the local people.

What do the people want? They do not have difficult or complicated demands. To start with, they want homes. Some 2,000 out of the 8,000 people on the waiting list for homes in Southwark borough want to live in Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, but there are not the homes for them to live in. They also want to bring up their families with open spaces outside their homes so that the children can be brought up in a healthy environment and at the moment the possibilities of that are receding with every decision made by the Secretary of State.

The exploitation of the land by property companies, however commercially justified they may see their development as being, will result in increased land values. That is harmful both for any public authority that wishes to develop the land and for any private occupier, tenant or owner who wishes to live there. It will be reflected in increased rates, rents and prices. Local demands are not being met and the tragedy is that with every one of these clearly and irrefutably undemocratic decisions, the whole logic of the way planning legislation has been allowed to develop in the way that it has is being, almost without notice, avoided and ignored by the Government.

It is fundamentally wrong to say, as the Secretary of State did last week in his decision about Hay's wharf, that supply and demand for offices is essentially a matter to be determined by the market. It is wrong, as the Secretary of State for the same Department said in 1975 on the Greater London plan, before approving it, because if market forces are left to operate unchecked, much of London's housing land will be transferred to other uses. If one Secretary of State, when approving one plan, says that market forces are not the way to allow this priceless heart of our national, local and community heritage to be developed, it must be wrong that another Secretary of State, some eight years later, should say that market forces should be the determining factor. It is clear that the market forces will not necessarily produce the goods, even for those competing for the market.

I spoke at the beginning about a white elephant. Increasingly, my fear is that with these decisions the Secretary of State has sent a white elephant to trample around the south bank. The footprints of that white elephant are increasingly seen to be leaving their mark in a way that risks the survival of the communities which should be there in their place. I make this plea on behalf of one of London's most courageous, most determined, most colourful and most hard-working communities—let the people be allowed to stay where they want to stay, in the sort of community that they want to be and not be driven out and separated from the lifeblood that is theirs and our capital's.

9.19 pm
Ms. Harriet Harman (Peckham)

I understand that as the motion on the Adjournment is in the name of the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) I have to restrict my comments to three minutes. This is not a technical, or even a planning matter, but one of the most urgent matters, which is of grave importance to the people who live in Peckham, whom I represent The land that the Minister is about to give over to speculative office development could, if it were used in the public interest, represent help for thousands of families.

People in Southwark want a decent home. That is what they are entitled to. However, thousands of families live in conditions that are literally intolerable. They live in flats in huge estates and in high rise blocks, and they have no gardens for their children to play in. The Minister would not be prepared to live on the Aylesbury estate, the Gloucester Grove estate or the north Peckham estate. He would not want to bring up his family on one of those estates. However, for the people who live on those estates this land represents a way out. It is their only way out. It means the prospect of houses — and houses with a garden. It means the possibility of streets instead of gruesome walkways. The council is running out of space on which to build. Within three years, it will have no building land left at all, if this order goes ahead.

If the council were able to acquire and build homes on this land, thousands of families would look forward to their future and not fear for their future. Instead, the Minister has agreed to plans that will mean either that the land is given over to office space or that it may remain empty for up to 12 years. If offices are built, it is virtually certain that they will remain empty, because there is already so much office space in the area.

The Minister has made it quite clear where his interests lie. They lie with the commercial interests of speculative office developers. In catering for them he resolutely turns his back on the misery of thousands of families who live in Southwark. He should reconsider this order.

9.21 pm
The Under-Secretary of State for the Environment (Mr. Neil Macfarlane)

The words of the hon. Member for Peckham (Ms. Harman), whom I welcome to this debate for her brief few minutes, will no doubt be read by those politicians of yesteryear who are responsible for many of the conditions which she so graphically illustrated and which now face her constituents.

This is the first time that I have replied to an Adjournment debate that has been generated by a resurrection of the Lib-Lab pact. I make no criticism of that, although it causes me some amazement. None the less, I am grateful to the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) for raising this important subject, and I am certain that the words of the hon. Lady, who I believe has been in the House marginally longer than the hon. Gentleman, will be read closely by many of the politicians in south London who we on these Benches believe are largely responsible for the plight of so many people.

Before I come to the matters that have been raised in the debate, I shall paint the background. I congratulate the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey on his detailed knowledge of London history and, indeed, those who have contributed to our country's literature, while being London residents. That appeals to me as a Londoner born and bred, and as one who once fought my right hon. Friend the Member for Daventry (Mr. Prentice) when I was a candidate for East Ham, North in 1970. Like the two hon. Members, I represent a London seat.

We all recognise that the Thames is one of the greatest assets— if not the greatest asset—of our capital city. Indeed, we must not forget that it was the original reason for the existence of London. For centuries, it formed the main link between London and Europe and the rest of the world. Other, more modern, forms of land and air transport have come along. Water-borne transport on which the Thamesside industries relied, however, has also changed. The development of modern forms of shipping has demanded deeper waters, not available in the central and upper reaches, and the docks have closed progressively. It is a well-known fact of history that the decline of the docks and dock-related industry has been swift, and some would say, devastating. London is not the only region that has suffered from that affliction.

The first major docks were built in the early 1800s and operated continuously for 160 years. Closures started in the East India dock in 1967, to be followed rapidly by St. Katharine's and London docks in 1969, Surrey docks in 1970, and 10 years later, the West India and Millwall dock on the Isle of Dogs, and finally the Royal group as was announced in 1981, also closed. Riverside wharves and warehouses, their trade gone, closed down, leaving behind them many magnificent but empty buildings — part of our heritage.

The strength of London and Londoners over the centuries has been a willingness and an ability to adapt to changed circumstances—not, as a colleague remarked many years ago in the House, being in favour of progress as long as it does not mean change. I certainly would not hurl that accusation this evening.

There can have been few periods, if any, in London's history when such a change has taken place on such a scale. A whole industry, with its supportive industries, moved away, taking with it the livelihood and lifestyle of thousands upon thousands of people. I think that hon. Members will acknowledge that fact. Some people might have seen such devastation as insoluble and simply walked away from it. We in London could not take, and have not taken, that view.

One has only to look along the river to see major new developments which have taken place during the post-war years, which are thriving and providing work for the people we represent. I speak not only as the Minister with responsibility for planning but even more as a London Member, as indeed is my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State.

Many people have dreamed that it would be possible to produce a grand design for redeveloping the whole of London's river frontage, thinking perhaps of Paris. But opportunities for that kind of grand exercise are rare and simply not available now in London. Too many, indeed most, of the major sites on the river have already been developed to allow that grand design. What we need to do now is to carry that redevelopment forward in a coherent way, preserving the best of the past and producing new developments which meet today's needs and reflect the best architecture of our times.

While the grand scheme is not open to us, one important theme should be pursued when potential riverside development is contemplated. Ideally, any new development should reopen access to the riverside for the enjoyment and recreation of the general public. For too long the river has been walled—indeed, even isolated from view. Wherever possible such access should be extended along the bank to provide riverside walks.

The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey raised some questions about planning procedures. Let me make clear at this stage the statutory basis, which I have no need to justify. Parliament decided, when it passed the Local Government Planning and Land Act 1980, that there should be a procedure, as the hon. Gentleman said—section 148 — under which an urban development corporation could submit proposals for development to my right hon. Friend for his approval. This procedure has been in existence for many years and proved its worth, certainly in new town development. It also decided in effect that the procedure for my right hon. Friend to consider such proposals should be reasonably speedy, while insisting that he should consult interested local authorities before reaching his decision. I submit that such a procedure is reasonable when set against the overall directive given to a development corporation in section 136 of the Act to secure the regeneration of that area. That is the most important feature. One must remember the importance of the regeneration of a community.

The London Docklands Development Corporation having properly submitted proposals for development of the Hay's wharf area under section 148, my right hon. Friend was under a statutory duty to consider them, and that he has done. He has given his reasons for approving those proposals in his decision letter, a copy of which has been sent to the hon. Gentleman. I am sure this House would expect no other course to be taken by my right hon. Friend.

As to the hon. Gentleman's claim that the consultation procedure carried out was cursory, I can only say that it was fully in accord with the terms of the Act. Equally, it is true that much of it took place during the run-up to the general election. Though the media and hon. Members may choose to take a different view, life is not suspended, nor are the local authorities, during an election period and statutory processes go ahead.

The hon. Gentleman also asked whether I can give an undertaking that section 148 procedures will not be used again. Of course I cannot and will not—the procedures are there, and are there to be used if that seems to the applicants to be the appropriate way forward. They will remain to be used as and until Parliament decides otherwise and takes steps to repeal them.

The question arises when it is right to give planning permission and whether it is the local planning authority or my right hon. Friend involved. The hon. Gentleman seemed to be suggesting that there were other preferable uses for the site about which he expressed most concern —Hay's wharf. I must point out that the only proposal before my right hon. Friend was that put forward by the London docklands development corporation, which incorporates significant office development as well as other commercial, technological industry, housing and recreational open space uses. Planning authorities—or in this case my right hon. Friend—are called upon in such circumstances to decide whether what is proposed is an acceptable use, on planning grounds, of the site in question. It is not a matter of whether what is proposed is the only use which may be possible or, indeed, acceptable.

There is no reason why more than one form of development should not be approved in respect of any particular site if proposals are put forward in the appropriate form. Planning permission opens the way for development. It does not compel it. It must be for the owner or developer to judge the most appropriate time for development to begin, based upon his assessment of market demand. That is an important consideration. He must be allowed to judge the pace at which larger phased developments take place — all of course, within the general constraint that planning permissions are time limited.

The hon. Gentleman touched on times, and I must remind him that it is not true that there are no time limits as far as Hay's wharf is concerned. There are time limits in the Hay's wharf approval. Phase one is five years to begin, and phase two is seven years. The hon. Gentleman also referred to the problems of unemployment in his constituency and to the particular skills and needs of the labour force. We all share his anxiety, and I have total sympathy with him in his concern. However, these problems cannot necessarily be solved by the planning process. The needs as I perceive them are to press ahead with regenerating the rundown areas with all possible speed. Just about every area that the hon. Gentleman mentioned has been progressively run down. That is true whether the area is by Vauxhall bridge or in any of the other parts that he mentioned. We are talking about regenerating that river front, and we are determined to regenerate those rundown areas with all possible speed and with developments that have an economic demand and a soundly based future. Only in that way will the local economy revive.

I urge the hon. Gentleman to consider that point, because, whatever his views, I believe that there are many important features to the development that will help his constituents. Successful developments bring in their train others that feed on and support them. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider that, because I know that he cares deeply about the issues involved. However, such developments can help in many ways.

Mr. Simon Hughes

The nature of the work force is such that the majority of people are trained, or at least semi-skilled, in occupations that are not reflected primarily in commercial developments. From the history of London it is clear that commercial developments bring employment primarily to those who live outside the city. The only exception is the service element. Will the hon. Gentleman accept that one consideration that is as important as any other is that the development should take place not necessarily quickly—because that has no merit in itself—but in a way that meets the demand for work and takes account of the skills of the local community, as evidenced by all the figures available?

Mr. Macfarlane

I note what the hon. Gentleman has said and shall come to that later. An important point is that people commute daily because the necessary facilities and dwellings do not exist in most inner city areas.

To refuse proposals simply because they do not meet immediately perceived needs for other forms of development for which there are neither proposals nor market demand could be a recipe for stagnation and the continuation of dereliction. Those are the very problems that we are trying to overcome. Dereliction, unused and underused sites, decaying buildings and corrugated iron are all the classic symptoms of inner city deprevation in our older areas. They all act as disincentives to the attraction of new industry and commerce and can and do lead to further decay, and to a sense of total exasperation and despair.

Major developments such as Hay's wharf, when they can be attracted to such areas, make enormous contributions. They contribute to employment during construction and after. They make a contribution to the quality of life in the area. They may generate civic pride. They contribute to local services, supply industries and rate income.

What needs to be done with the decaying areas? We need to encourage development which can lift up the older areas and improve the environment to make them places where people want to live and work and invest in the future. That cannot be achieved by any one body or agency.

We believe that we need drive, enthusiasm and co-operation. By that I mean co-operation between central Government, local government, the private sector and the local community.

The Government, for their part, are working to that end and I am pleased to say that the private sector is enthusiastically joining with them. Local government is perhaps more patchy in its response, but in many areas is also active in promotion.

We have particularly recognised the size of the problems of dereliction and underutilisation of docklands from Tower bridge to Beckton on the north bank and from London bridge around the Southwark peninsula on the south bank. The Government established the London docklands development corporation to tackle the task of regenerating the area. What was needed was a single-minded, clearly identifiable, development agency, with development control powers, which could act as a catalyst for the involvement of the private sector and direct public resources to where they are most needed. In only two years the LDDC has made a significant contribution to the regeneration of docklands.

The LDDC has secured the first large-scale development of housing for sale in docklands since the war, with the emphasis on low cost housing within reach of the local people. Four major private builders have developed a 22 acres site for 601 houses and flats, and site preparation for a further 1,080 has begun. In Southwark, the LDDC has released land on five sites on which 450 homes are being built. The first dozen of the homes for private sale were sold immediately on completion to local people and there is evidence of considerable local demand — one developer was, indeed, overwhelmed by the numbers of local tenants who queued overnight seeking to buy.

In the Lavender dock area the LDDC is helping to finance a housing association to purchase 111 of the new homes for renting to some of the residents of the rundown London borough of Southwark-owned Downtown estates. This became necessary to keep faith with Downtown residents when Southwark reneged on an agreement with LDDC whereby Southwark would purchase new housing provided on LDDC land.

Mr. Simon Hughes

I have been round some of the houses and I know that the need for them exists. I hope that the Minister accepts that houses costing £50,000 and £60,000 do not meet local people's needs. Has the LDDC already reconsidered the price range so that particularly round Greenland dock a lower cost housing scheme will be approved?

The Minister said that the community was part of the co-operative plan. Why is it that the Secretary of State, having consulted during the election campaign—perhaps not the best time — and held a public meeting in Southwark, chaired and run by the two local authorities concerned and which revealed unanimous opposition to the proposals, did not think it necessary to hold a public inquiry? It was clear that the one public consultation resulted in total opposition to the proposal.

Mr. Macfarlane

One public consultation is not the only way. It is certainly not the most successful way of ensuring a speedy regeneration. I cannot answer fully all the questions that the hon. Gentleman has asked, but I shall ensure that he receives replies.

In the development of any housing estate, there must be a range of prices. I hope that the hon. Gentleman's comments will be noted. I shall take them up.

Many people in the area thought that the land would be used to rehouse tenants of the downtown blocks and that the vacated blocks would be sold to the LDDC which would then arrange for their demolition and redevelopment, in some cases conversion, to provide further low-cost housing.

In April 1982, the Isle of Dogs enterprise zone was designated and the LDDC has been carrying out major infrastructure work costing about £7 million. The hon. Member is as interested as I am in the regeneration of the river front. Over 100 acres of land have been released on the market, and the first disposals to the private sector have been completed. About 250,000 sq ft of factory space is being built. That is no mean achievement in a comparatively short time, and it bodes well for the future.

In carrying out these developments and in considering others which have been approved, and to which the hon. Gentleman has referred, we and the other bodies involved have been concerned to see that the proposals put forward will stand the test of architectural quality. Design competitions are one means of achieving this—though not the only one. The London docklands development corporation is committed to achieving good design and in its two most recent exercises, at Elephant lane and Cherry Garden pier it has, respectively, run and is about to run competitions working closely with the Royal Institute of British Architects. In the case of Elephant lane, where the judging is complete, a representative of the local tenants association was brought in as one of the assessors. It was a useful example of local community involvement.

The designs of buildings of course never, or hardly ever, satisfy everyone. The hon. Gentleman and I might disagree, but "beauty is in the eye of the beholder" holds just as firmly in architecture as it does in other fields. There are those who wish to see reproductions of buildings already in existence. There are high tech modernists and others. Reconciliation of each view is not easy—it may be impossible. To the hon. Gentleman's request to sustain an architectural distinction between the two banks of the river I can say only that I can see no point, nor can I see how it could best be achieved. Let us by all means preserve the best of the old—as in Hay's wharf the promoters are proposing to do—but let us not be frightened of the new. Let us rather see that it can live in harmony with the old. That is an important amalgam.

I was asked also how my right hon. Friend the Secretary of State considered the proposals. On that, as on other matters, he considered the proposals, the representations made on them by the consultees and advice available to him from within the Department of the Environment. As I have already pointed out, my right hon. Friend is and has been a London Member for many years. I doubt whether he, any more than other London Members, can have attended this place regularly without being aware of the situation at a site as prominent and as close to the Palace of Westminster as Hay's wharf.

Things are moving on the regeneration of the Thames riverside. We are firm in our policy of pressing ahead to produce an environment of which London can be proud. At one stage of his speech the hon. Gentleman was overly gloomy. I do not know whether he has a political point to put forward or what pressures he has from his constituency, but I believe that, with his open mind, he must recognise that a great deal of good is coming out of what we are now planning. This will enable the Thamesside area to continue to do what it has always done —contribute to the greater welfare of London and the country at large.

Question put and agreed to.

Adjourned accordingly at seventeen minutes to Ten o'clock.