HL Deb 04 May 1891 vol 353 cc1-4

London, my Lords, cannot, I fear, take high rank amongst the beautiful cities of the earth, but she possesses in the Victoria Embankment a boulevard which she owes to the foresight and public spirit of the London Metropolitan Board of Works, and of which any Londoner may be proud. It unites in a remarkable degree the life of the great city and the spirit which is attached to the shipping moving up and down in the river, and that which is attached to ancient buildings and fine palaces—a combination which I think cannot be shown in any other capital of the world. We have there a wide thoroughfare replete with life: we have fine trees, green grass, bright parterres of flowers, fountains, monuments to the illustrious dead. We have ancient buildings and we have interest on all sides. Now, unfortunately, some portion of the public gardens which abut upon this thoroughfare are not open to the public. There are about eight or nine or ten houses which possess the right of enjoying some of these gardens. I understand that these gardens to which I allude are in the possession of the Crown. The noble Lord who answers me has better means of obtaining information than I have, and he will correct me if I am wrong; but I understand that these gardens form part of the Crown lands, and are vested in the Commissioners of Woods and Forests under the Thames Embankment Act of 1862. I am told that the gardens have been leased by the Crown to the lessees of the adjoining houses, and that the leases expire as follows: the lease of Montague (otherwise Beaufort) House in 1904, the lease of No. 1 Whitehall Gardens in 1954, those of Nos. 4, 5, and 6 in 1923, and of Nos. 7 and 8 in 1892. Unfortunately Nos. 7 and 8 abut on the public gardens at present open, and if those are built upon, or if any lease is given to the owners of the houses, Nos. 7 and 8, of those gardens, your Lordships will see it will be impossible later on to continue the public gardens down to what are at present the new Scotland Yard buildings; and the continuity of such gardens would therefore be destroyed. I may as well at once state that I hold no brief for the London County Council in this matter. Indeed, I have been very careful not to consult any of my colleagues upon it, because I do not wish to be bound one way or the other, but simply as a citizen of London I bring this subject to your Lordships' notice in the hope that Her Majesty's Government may do what they can to add to the beauty of this thoroughfare, to make it still more beautiful and more worthy, than it is at present, of the greatest Metropolis in the world. I therefore ask Her Majesty's Government whether the lands at present leased as gardens to private owners, situated between the New Scotland Yard Buildings and the Victoria Embankment Public Gardens, will revert to the Crown in 1892; and, if so, whether Her Majesty's Government will undertake not to renew the leases, sell, relet or otherwise dispose of the land, until the citizens of London, through their representatives on the London County Council, have had an opportunity of declining to purchase or rent these lands for the purpose of enlarging the area of the gardens at present open to the public?


My Lords, I think I may say that Her Majesty's Government will not be likely to minimise the importance of retaining open spaces in London for the public use. There is only a small portion of these gardens at present leased to private owners, situate between the New Scotland Yard Buildings and the Victoria Embankment, which will revert to the Crown in 1892. The noble Earl has correctly stated, I believe, the dates at which the rest of the gardens will revert to the Crown. The gardens which do revert next year, that is in 1892, are those of No. 4, Whitehall Yard, and Nos. 7 and 8, Whitehall Gardens, at present in the occupation of the Board of Trade. A new road is going to be made opposite the Horse Guards from Whitehall to the Embankment, and nearly the whole of the gardens of No. 4, Whitehall Yard will be required for this purpose, and for the exchange of land necessary with the London County Council, respectively authorised by the Horse Guards Avenue Act of 1888. I may explain that this exchange affects only two very small pieces of land, and was made for the purpose of making the new road conveniently straight. No determination has yet been arrived at as to the future appropriation of the gardens of Nos. 7 and 8, Whitehall Gardens, but it clearly could not be made an addition to the present existing gardens on the Embankment, because the new road which will be made between the present public gardens and the gardens of Nos. 7 and 8, Whitehall Gardens, would prevent this. Under the circumstances, it is impossible for the Commissioners of Woods and Forests to give any undertaking which will fetter such future appropriation.