HL Deb 07 August 1890 vol 348 cc70-3

House in Committee (according to order.)

Clause 3.


My Lords, there are two Bills before the House in relation to Metropolitan buildings. It is rather singular that this, which is a public Bill contains no provision to prevent such monstrosities as the Hankey Buildings and Queen Ann's Mansions. The County Council Bill has a clause to prevent houses being erected above 70 feet in height, but the noble Lord the Chairman of the Select Committee has struck out that limit and has altered it to 90 feet, and two storeys in the roof, so that the height of the building altogether may be raised to 105 feet, as it is impossible to make a story less than 7 feet, and allowing a foot for a floor it gives 15 feet. The County Council Bill is a private Bill, and up to the present time it has not been communicated to the Metropolitan Members, and very few of your Lordships, I imagine, have seen that Bill. The Board of Works do not appear to have taken any part in it. The answer given to Lord Hardinge was that they would be glad to see any efforts which he might make successful, and that anything he attempted to carry out would receive the warm support of the Office of Works. Nothing further has been done in that sense. My Lords, these enormous buildings are not only very unsightly, but entail very great danger, especially danger from fire. I think the noble Lord the Chairman of the Committee took no evidence upon the subject of danger from fire, but if he had it would not, I think, have been of much value, because the precautions against fire in these very high buildings only consist of cisterns in the roof with hydrants to be applied when occasion requires. But it is quite certain that many people would be lost in case of fire in these high buildings, because it would be trusting to a broken reed to expect that suddenly roused people in the middle of the night, perhaps frightened women, would be able to set those hydrants to work. Any of your Lordships who have seen the large hotels in Paris must know how very dangerous they are. Besides, the rooms in the roof would not always be healthy in summer, they would be most unwholesome, and they cannot be properly provided with fires in the winter. The Amendments which I have placed on the Paper I will not press now, as they might come more appropriately upon the County Council Bill, but I think it is for the convenience of the House that this discussion should take place at the present time, for every day the attendance in the House gets smaller. I propose to point out what is regarded as the sanitary scale, that is the height of buildings shall not exceed the width of the street. That is already the Statutory provision with regard to new streets, and in old streets, it should be taken into consideration in any Amendment that might be made as to the height of the houses. If the question of the manner in which old streets have been built is to be gone into, I think Her Majesty's Government will meet the desires of everybody if they will appoint a Select Committee next Session to go into this question of the erection of these very high buildings in the Metropolis. I understand that Baron Hausmann in Paris endeavoured to follow the same sanitary scale, that is to say, the height of the houses not exceeding the width of the street; but in London it is not always possible to follow that out. Here there are some streets fully as narrow as those in Paris, such as Jermyn Street, for instance. That may be done in Paris which cannot be done here in consequence of the dampness of the climate and the narrowness and darkness of the streets. There is one thing upon which I must compliment the Chairman of the Select Committee, and that is the clause which he has permitted to be added in page 36, providing that where, as in some streets already, such as Victoria Street, there are at present gaps, the new houses shall be of the same height as the existing buildings. That is a very good provision, and gets rid of some of the difficulties which many persons have urged against any alteration in height as the provision now stands in the Bill, that is the height of 90 feet. I should like to add, with regard to the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, who have a large amount of property in the Metropolis, that the Secretary told me the Commissioners would not raise a finger to increase the limit, which had originally been fixed of 70 feet. They are very good judges on the subject. I heard one person say that those who had proposed this knew nothing about their business and were sacrificing property, but I do not think that is the case; on the contrary, by showing themselves moderate they would be more likely to obtain sanction to their proposals without opposition, the same would be the case with Government Offices. I hope some of your Lordships will enter into the discussion, which up to the present has been carried on almost entirely with closed doors. There have been so many other subjects before the public that it has not been discussed in the Press, as so important a matter, I think, should have been, because there can be no doubt that buildings 105 feet in height in the Metropolis will be very dangerous and unhealthy, and especially dangerous from fire. I move the Amendment which stands in my name.

Amendment moved, after Clause 3, insert as a new clause— After the passing of this Act, it shall not be lawful to erect a building higher than what is allowed by the sanitary scale sanctioned by the late Metropolitan Board of Works, namely, the height not to exceed the width of the street, nor to exceed seventy feet where there is an open space in front of the building, without the sanction of the county council, after the application to the county council shall have been duly advertised."—(The Lord Stanley of Alderley.)


No doubt it is a very interesting subject which the noble Lord has raised for discussion, but it has not really reference to the Bill which is now in Committee, which does not deal with buildings, or the height of buildings. It has great relevance, no doubt, to another Bill which is now before your Lordships' House, which has passed from a Select Committee and come back to your Lordships, and which will have to be considered either to-morrow or on some future occasion. That Bill deals with this specific question of the height of houses. My noble Friend is afraid that when that Bill comes on the number of your Lordships present will be even more limited than to-day, but I am afraid that is hardly a reason for discussing upon this Bill a proposition which really arises on another Bill. We can hardly insert such a clause as he suggests in this Bill when there is another analogous Bill which is coming before your Lordships after it has been dealt with by the Select Committee. I am not without some sympathy with the noble Lord in his desire to prevent these very high buildings being erected in London, but, after all, that seems to me to be a question which cannot properly be discussed on the present occasion.


I withdraw my Amendment.

Amendment (by leave of the House) withdrawn.

Report of Amendments to be received to-morrow.