HC Deb 15 March 1995 vol 256 cc889-90
8. Mr. Simon Coombs

To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment what assessment he has made of how those parts of London adjacent to the Thames can be more effectively utilised.

Mr. Gummer

My Department has recently undertaken a Thames strategy study and has produced a planning framework for the Thames gateway, both of which directly deal with the issue and make recommendations to ensure that land use planning by riparian authorities takes full account of the special character of the river.

Mr. Coombs

Does my right hon. Friend agree that the Thames in London is a priceless national asset that is disappointingly and significantly underused? Does he further agree that two of the keys to unlocking that problem are access to the river and attractions beside the river? In the second context, is it not encouraging that Bankside power station is to be taken over by the 'Tate gallery and that the new Globe theatre is nearing completion?

Mr. Gummer

I agree with my hon. Friend about those last examples. I have considered carefully not only the planning guidance that we should give for the Thames but the nature of the Thames beyond the old Greater London council boundary to the sea. We have some proposals and I hope that he agrees that it is important to have wider public consultation. That is why I recently called in the proposals for a new building on the site near Battersea old church.

Mr. Tony Banks

If we are talking about power stations by the Thames, what about Battersea power station? It is one of most horrific sights in London in terms of the fact that it has been allowed to become derelict. The roof is off and a grave danger exists that the building will collapse; I suspect that that is precisely what the owners want. Will the Secretary of State take urgent action to do something about one of the great landmark buildings of London?

Mr. Gummer

I am not sure that I would go quite as far as the hon. Gentleman in his love of Battersea power station, but I recognise that many people are keen on that building. He will be happy to know that the relatively recent inspection showed that the building's structure is being properly looked after. We need to find a proper use for the building and to have the money to develop it. We would all like to know about it if the hon. Gentleman has a use into which he is prepared to put his money.