HL Deb 19 May 1947 vol 147 cc813-60

2.35 p.m.

LORD LLEWELLIN rose to call attention to the proposal to build a large power station at Bankside; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, I always think that it is part of the duty of Parliament—and perhaps by no means the least important part—to watch current administration, to bring to the notice of the Executive matters on which there is dissatisfaction in the country, and to do its best to see that those matters are reviewed and perhaps put right. Indeed, this is one of the main ways in which Parliament here differs from such bodies as the Fascist Grand Council, who were summoned only to endorse completely what Mussolini had already decided.

There are many things in the day-to-day administration of Government—as indeed I knew when I was a Minister—on which no differences on the usual political Party lines are raised. In such matters men of all Parties can join, not to gain any Party advantage, but to try and put right something which may have been done without a full realization of the deep concern which it would cause; or in which a decision may have been taken at a moment when the immediate background prevented the matter being considered in its broader and deeper aspects. The matter which I am bringing to your Lordships' notice to-day seems to me to be one on which second thoughts may well be right, and where probably they may be better than the first thoughts seemed to the outside world. For years there have been many in this country—and I certainly have been one of them—who have had two things in mind. The first is that it is a great pity that the south bank of the Thames has never been properly planned and developed. For centuries Lambeth Palace, almost alone, relieved it from being completely barren of beauty once one came up river from Greenwich Palace.

After the last war the London County Council, by erecting their fine administrative home just below Westminster Bridge, gave rise to hope of further good development of the south bank; and many looked forward to the day when a fine and really planned scheme of things would make that side of the river good to look upon and good to live on, certainly as far down as London Bridge. The second thought that many people had was that it was a great pity that, after the Great Fire of London in 1666, the opportunity was not taken of providing broad vistas both to and from St. Paul's, so that the Cathedral might stand forth and be seen as Windsor Castle can be seen down the Long Walk, as the Arc de Triomphe can be seen down the Champs-Elysées, or as the monument to Lincoln can be seen down that fine panorama in Washington leading from Capitol Hill to the Lincoln Memorial.

We all regretted what we may term the Second Great Fire of London, caused by the German air raids in the recent war, but many people consoled themselves at that time by saying: "This, at any rate, will give us the opportunity of doing what out forefathers seemed to have failed to do." For myself, I look upon the sanction given to the City of London Electric Lighting Company to erect a large new power station at Bankside as perhaps the first in a series of decisions which, between them, will mean that we lose a great opportunity of building a better and more beautiful London out of the ruin and devastation which it suffered during the recent war. Let us try to prevent that before it is too late. As I understand it, the present power station—which I have been to look at, and which is itself not [...] thing of beauty—is to be replaced by one with about four times more output. Whatever its advocates may say, therefore, the new power station must be larger and more domineering, though whether, if oil fed, it will have one or more large chimneys, I do not know. In the last half an hour I have had the opportunity, as no doubt your Lordships have, of seeing a preliminary sketch outside this Chamber. I have also looked at the model which we are indebted to the Government for having placed in Committee Room C, and that at any rate seems to have one large chimney.

I am not one of those who think that an electric power station cannot be a thing of beauty, provided that it is put in the right place and fits in with its surroundings. We must naturally differ on this kind of æsthetic problem, but I do not think, despite the model we have seen, that this power station will be a good near neighbour to St. Paul's. One has seen in many cities in the world—New York, I think is perhaps the most impressive in this way—how the commercial life grows up into the skies above the old religious edifices, the cathedrals, and such buildings; and I myself like to see, and hope we shall always see, the City, which is the centre of this great Empire and Commonwealth, completely overshadowed by St. Paul's, without any kind of rival. As I understand it, the plan for this piece of old London—I believe the noble Lord, Lord Latham, is likely to speak, and he will correct me if I am wrong—does not envisage commercial surroundings on this part of Bankside. The plan is for a riverside walk and gardens, backed by buildings of an educational and cultural character, with seemly and well-designed blocks of offices and flats. No one can say that this extended power station will be in harmony with that plan. However good the architect, however well designed it may be, it will be rather like introducing an alligator into the water-lily pond in one's garden. The two conceptions just do not go with one another.

As far back as two years ago this company were offered another site at Rotherhithe. Had they accepted it and started, there would have been, so far as I can see, no delay. None of us wants any delay in the provision of more electric power, at any rate if it is a material addition to the power that we already have, for the Metropolitan area, but I do not know that this power station will provide any great addition to the electricity supply. I see that in another place on May 15 of this year it was stated that the output capacity of the Bankside station, in millions of watts, is seventy-six, compared with a total of 2,644 for the whole of the generating stations in the London area. The answer from the Minister is headed: "Output Capacity—M.Ws.o.," and I am advised that this means millions of watts; but I am open to be corrected if I am wrong. I see from the same answer that in 1946, although approximately 8,500,000,000 units were produced in the London area, 1,200,000,000 units were exported, oddly enough, from London to the grid. It seems to me, therefore, that if in 1946 London could afford to export units to the general grid, it might be well that increased power capacity should be provided outside this densely populated area rather than within it.

Electricity is a commodity that under the grid system can easily be carried from one place to another, but, taking the capacity of the country as a whole, the added units produced by the new station at Bankside will not contribute very materially towards meeting our needs in the matter of electric power. But even if they did and some delay were to be caused, there will almost certainly be delay in the provision of the plant. I should like to know when the plant was ordered by this company. The scheme to turn over from coal to oil-burning was made only a month ago, and none of the oil-burning furnaces can have been ordered before then, because up till that date the idea was that this would be a coal-burning plant. I suggest that the Government can hardly plead that no delay is possible, for by the decision given by the Minister of Town and Country Planning on April 22, that it must be an oil-burning plant, a considerable delay in the commence- ment of operations must have been caused. Indeed, as I understand it, the decision was only made in order to lower the height of the building, to dispense, perhaps, with a chimney or two; and that in itself will obviously necessitate a completely new layout of the whole of this large power station.

Another point upon which I should like some information is where and in what quantities it is intended to store the oil that is to work this plant. One of our great concerns at the Admiralty in 1938 and early 1939 was in regard to the oil stored at Thames Haven. We envisaged the oil tanks being breached by high-explosive bombs, the oil being set alight by incendiaries, and the likelihood of there floating up river on the inflowing tide a blazing mass of oil. To guard against that—and it was part of my job as Civil Lord of the Admiralty to do so—we spent large sums of money bunding a number of oil tanks; and eventually we decided to empty most of them. Indeed, at the moment war broke out there was not much oil stored in those tanks. We should have been far more scared for the shipping on the Thames, and indeed for all the buildings adjacent to the river, had the place of oil storage been as far up as that now proposed at Bankside. Unfortunately, the time has not yet passed when defence calculations can be completely ruled out, or this House would not shortly be receiving for consideration from another place the National Service Bill. Very soon, also, a certain amount of our time is to be taken up by the Town and Country Planning Bill, and it seems to be a rather unfortunate prelude to that Bill that we should be faced with a decision of the sort which we are discussing to-day.

Here is a matter on which, as I believe, all the local authorities concerned with the plans for the area in which the present station and the proposed one will be situated, are in complete agreement—the London County Council, the City of London, and the Borough of Southwark. What has happened? A public local inquiry was held in January of this year. Who held it? Four gentlemen—a Mr. Dodd, on behalf of the Minister of Town and Country Planning, and three others, all most capable men (I know them all) who appeared on behalf of the Electricity Commissioners, Sir Cyril Hurcomb, Sir John Kennedy, and Mr. Nimmo. At least this inquiry was a little bit weighted on one side, and some heavy-weights (several of them are friends of mine) were on that side. However, there it was: that was the form of this inquiry. No doubt it was upon the report of that inquiry that the Minister or Ministers based their present decision. They certainly made that decision some time between the beginning of February and about April 20, when any other decision than to put up a big new power station may have seemed quite impossible. But, if I may say so, I agree with the comments of the Town Planning Committee of the London County Council, when they say in their Report to the Council: The permanent damage which will be done to the fulfilment of the County of London Plan by this decision, if adhered to, cannot, we consider, be justified by the relatively brief advantage gained in the production of electricity for the London area. To me, at any rate, a matter of this sort seems to be a test of whether we are going in for sound and good planning, or whether we are to let it be made a mock of by ad hoc decisions of this sort.

If I may I will once again quote from this Report of the County Council's Town Planning Committee. They say: In our judgment this decision raises the whole question of the planned and seemly development of the south bank of the Thames, and is in, the nature of a test of the reality of planning. Public opinion has quickly reacted against the prospect of this new and larger power station being erected on Bank-side, and we hope that the Ministers may see their way to reconsider their decision while there is yet time. I, too, hope that this decision may be reconsidered while there is yet time. I am one of those who have looked at the model. In the form of a model a power station looks a comparatively harmless thing. It has, naturally, no smoke coming out of the chimney, and the chimney of the model, I believe, is not perhaps so high as that which will be found necessary when this station is actually put up. What I would suggest to your Lordships is that it is wrong to mix up industrial and other development; that is against all good new town planning. We could well have this power station somewhere farther down the river, which will, rightly and of necessity, be industrial. If we are to develop that stretch of the south bank as a residential, cultural and educational centre, it will be a thoroughly bad thing to have that power station in its midst.

No loss of prestige is ever suffered by a Minister who quietly and courteously gives way to the weight of public opinion; and when public opinion is reasonably yet forcibly raised in Parliament, and attention is paid to it, it may indeed have a good effect. People can then pat themselves on the back and say how good it is to see that we are still a democracy, a place in which opinions voiced in Parliament still carry some weight. I put down this Motion in the hope that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, or whoever replies from the Government side, will say that this matter will be looked at again. In the light of what I have said and of what other speakers may say, I hope that that is the reply we shall be given in this House to-day, and it is in that spirit that I beg to move for Papers.

3.2 p.m.


My Lords, we have to thank the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, for having given us an opportunity to discuss this matter, which is of far more than local importance. I do not know whether your Lordships have all fully realized the immense size of the structure which is to be erected on the south bank of the river opposite St. Paul's. Its length is to be 450 feet. St. Paul's is 515 feet, so it is nine-tenths the length of the Cathedral; or, if we consider this building in which we are now meeting and have in our minds the long river front of the Houses of Parliament from the Clock Tower to the Victoria Tower, this building will be just about half as long as the Houses of Parliament. The height of it is to be 87 feet. The average height of this building is about 80 feet. The chimney, according to a statement made by the Minister of Town and Country Planning at a Press conference reported in The Times on May 7, is to be a maximum of 313 feet, possibly lower. The Nelson Column is 145 feet; so this chimney will be equal to two Nelson Columns, one above the other. If we come back to the Houses of Parliament, the Clock Tower, including the finial, is 320 feet, so that if the new chimney is 313 feet it will be almost exactly the height of the whole Clock Tower. If it were 6o feet lower it would still be as high as the Clock Tower, up to and including the clock face.

The site of the station—which I have visited—is immediately opposite St. Paul's. One stands at the water's edge and there, immediately in front, is the great mass of St. Paul's, broadside to the river. Now it is obscured by a mass of half derelict property, consisting largely of warehouses of a very low grade, all of which is to be swept away, according to the London Plan, to make place for fine architectural buildings, cut through by long vistas going up to St. Paul's on its eminence. All around on the south side to-day you see a huddle of half derelict buildings—parts of them destroyed in the bombing, a melancholy desolation of tidal mud and decaying poor class property, reminding one of Dickens' scenes of riverside London, with the water lapping the tumble-down houses and warehouses and a sinister silence and solitude pervading the place. All that is also to be cleared away, according to the London Plan, and there will be a fine embankment carrying a roadway and gardens and a magnificent layout of surrounding streets and squares.

This frontage is a continuation of a redeemed south bank, beginning with the County Hall and going on to a new National Theatre and other buildings of importance and high architectural value. All around is to be a redeemed Southwark, which should have as its destiny, not to be an isolated suburb but an integral link between Westminster and the City of London. In the middle of this, broadside to the river, seventy yards from the water's edge and with nothing between, is to be this vast structure, half as long as the Houses of Parliament, a little higher, and with a chimney comparable with the Clock Tower. All of us who are loyal Londoners have long felt that in the plan for the greater dignity and beauty of London the Thames waterway ought to be a central feature, lending to the whole City a beauty and grandeur which cannot be obtained in any other way. Most of your Lordships are familiar with the approach to Venice from the sea, or the special characteristics of Stockholm with its waterways, or the appearance of Budapest on the Danube. These are memorable to all who have seen them, but apart from the canals of Venice—which are unique and beyond compare—this River Thames ought to provide the finest river landscape of any city in the world.

We hear much in these days of the prospect of an increase of tourists. With wealth more diffused among all classes of the population in many countries, with the growth of leisure, and with air travel if it becomes safe and cheap as well as rapid, there will be throughout the world an immense growth of travel, not only for business but also for pleasure. Millions of people will come from all parts of the world to visit London for enjoyment or for commercial reasons. Such travel is of great cultural value to civilized people, and of great economic value to the country which serves as host, and before very long we may have replaced from this source the whole of the income that we used to derive from our foreign investments, sacrificed owing to the exigencies of war. We hope that all these people, if they come to Europe, will come to London. If they come to London they will take, as a matter of course, a river trip from Greenwich to Westminster. We may imagine these river excursions, hourly or even more frequently, year by year, generation after generation, taking people from all over the world to see the beauties of London.

Imagine, if this scheme is carried out, what may happen on one of these excursions, ten, fifty, or a hundred years hence. A crowded boat going on its way up the river from Greenwich to Westminster, a guide pointing out the things to be seen. "On the right, you see the famous cathedral of St. Paul's, 515 feet long, built by Sir Christopher Wren"—on such and such a date, and so forth. "On the left you see the Bankside power station, 450 feet long, and its chimney well known as one of the tallest in the world, erected in the year 1948, and usually known as 'Silkin's Folly,' after the Minister of Town and Country Planning of that day." Imagine the comments of those travellers from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, the United States, South America, and the countries of Asia and Africa. They would say to one another, "How could the people of London tolerate such a thing? How did this come about? Why did they not rise up and protest against it?" They would be told that all the local authorities had protested against it, and that the Planning Authority for London had a far better plan, and that the City, St. Paul's, and other cultural activities in the country protested against it, yet they were over-ruled because statutory powers had been vested in the Government.

I do not propose to touch on any of the more technical aspects of this question, nor upon the controversy about possible sites, the cost of oil and coal, and the effect upon local plans, because I am to be followed by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, Leader of the London County Council, who speaks on all these matters with a knowledge and authority greater than anyone else in this House. But I will say that the case in support of the scheme rests upon a purely utilitarian argument. It is said that all the arguments that may be advanced with regard to the amenities and the greatness or grandeur of London may be very true, but that in this workaday world we must take more utilitarian considerations into full account, and that all the arguments of the opponents of the scheme must give way to the fact that it is necessary to proceed with this plan in order to avoid some months of delay (because it is to be accounted only in months) in providing a small fraction of the additional electric power needed in London. The company which are promoting this scheme were told two years ago—in 1945—that the London County Council, as the Planning Authority, objected to this scheme. Alternative sites were suggested by the London County Council, but the company rejected the advice that was given to them and insisted upon their scheme. The result has been a delay of two years. It is somewhat hard on the people of London of the present and future generations if, on account of that very delay, we are now told that it is too late to change and that it is now impossible to wait a further period. That would mean that obstruction has been crowned with success.

Can anyone believe it is true that in the whole area of London there is no possible site for this great station other than this very one? The fact of the matter is simply this: the City of London Electric Lighting Company had this comparatively small and now out-of-date station on the south bank, and for many years past had been intending to replace it, when opportunity offered, by a greatly enlarged and more modern power station. They gradually accumulated more land for this purpose until they now hold an estate of some eight acres. But this was before the redemption of the south bank was in question, before the bombing had given a great opportunity, before the County of London Plan, and before the creation of a Ministry of Town and Country Planning to carry out national policy in this regard. But still the company insist upon this one site, and they declare that there is no reason why they should be debarred from using their own property in the way they had intended. That is the real reason why this site is so strenuously urged; all the other arguments are purely specious. If it had not been owned by the Company, and already used by an obsolescent power station, is there anybody who would have put his finger on that spot, and said: "That is the right spot for the new great power station on the south bank?" Not one.

We have often had these controversies before. Your Lordships will remember the case of Durham Cathedral—the great new power station that was to be erected on a spot which would have ruined one of the most famous and historic views of the cathedral and the castle of Durham. There we were told that æsthetic considerations must give way to economic considerations, that industry imperatively needed more electricity, and that the town of Durham and the whole surrounding districts would depend for their prosperity upon the development of industry served by this power station. We were told that every place had been searched, but that there was no possible alternative to serve the purposes of the power station which would be unobjectionable from the point of view of the amenities of Durham. But the opposition was not silenced. It continued; it became even more vehement; and after further inquiry it was found, without any difficulty, that a different site would do just as well for the power station, and would be entirely free from the objections that had been raised. We had a similar experience at Lincoln, and, only the other day, on a smaller scale, the White Horse Hill was saved from having a small electric installation erected on the summit—an installation which was said to be imperatively necessary in order to permit the extension of television.

In this case, the most urgent protests have been made by the Borough of Southwark, which has a Labour majority on its Council. This Council have rightful ambitions to be redeemed from the comparatively ignoble buildings and streets, with an almost complete absence of open spaces, which at present compose Southwark, and they have been nursing these ambitions for years. They declare that these ambitions will be absolutely frustrated if this scheme is carried through. The City of London is a vitally interested neighbour. Not long ago I had the privilege of presiding over a meeting of members of both Houses of Parliament. This meeting was addressed by Mr. Silkin, but remained unconvinced. The Lord Mayor of London attended in person, in order to show the deep concern of the City Corporation with regard to this scheme. The Bishop of London and the Dean and Chapter of St. Paul's have joined in the protest. Sir Patrick Abercrombie, the chief authority on planning in this country and one of the authors of the great London scheme, recently wrote a most cogent letter to The Times. The Royal Institute of British Architects have recorded unanimously their grave concern and the hope that this project will not be proceeded with. I am authorized also by the Royal Society of Arts, of which I have the honour to be one of the honorary officers, to inform your Lordships that a few days ago the Council of the Society unanimously passed a resolution declaring that they regarded this scheme as most regrettable, and urging reconsideration of the whole matter. And all this has arisen because two Ministers (for the Minister of Fuel and Power is also closely concerned in this matter) have, unhappily, come to a wrong judgment.

We must all admit that, taken as a whole, in its external aspects, London is not fully worthy of its position as the chief city of England, the Capital of the United Kingdom and the centre of the British Commonwealth and Empire; that its visual appearance lacks the majesty that should match its historic fame—a fame which events of recent years have made more resplendent than ever. I think the citizens of London are resolved that their Metropolis, in fifty or one hundred years—and in all the centuries to come—shall be a much finer place than it is to-day. We all remember the former occasion of great destruction in the conflagration of three hundred years ago, and we are accustomed to deplore the lack of vision and determination that let slip the great opportunity that was then offered; yet today we are on the verge of repeating in this part of London precisely that same blunder. This is a test case, and I earnestly hope that your Lordships' House will lend its powerful voice in support of those who declare that this disastrous proposal should not proceed.

3.24 p.m.


My Lords, I would first like to express my thanks to the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, for having put this Motion on the Order Paper, thereby enabling a discussion of this very important matter to take place in the objective atmosphere customary to your Lordships' House. Speaking this afternoon as the Leader of the London County Council, the authority responsible for the planning control and regulation of London, I must ask your Lordships' forgiveness if I am a little lengthy and if I follow my notes rather more closely than is my custom. First, may I say that I deeply regret having to speak against the Government on this matter? I feel no personal pleasure at all in being opposed to the Minister of Town and Country Planning, who for many years was my close colleague on the London County Council, who as Chairman of the Town Planning Committee made a valuable contribution towards the formulation of the County of London. Plan, and who, as Chairman of the Committee, in July, 1945, was responsible for securing from. the Council their approval of the principles outlined in the County of London Plan. I cannot think or believe that, despite his defence of the decision—which I quite well understand—he personally approves the proposal to erect a new and larger power station on Bankside.

I submit to your Lordships' House that the issue we are now discussing is one fraught with immense consequences to the development of a large part of the South of London. It is not a question only between æsthetics and utility. In our view it it a question between planning and no planning. That to us is the fundamental issue. All Parties on the London County Council, except two members of a "splinter" Party, whose counterparts in the other place, I notice, have signed a resolution against the project—something must have gone wrong with the directive in this case—all of us are, apart from those two, united in our opposition to this proposal.

The opposition or objection to this proposal is not of yesterday. The Council were first approached in March, 1945, with an inquiry as to what their view would be on the rebuilding of the power station at Bankside. Without any hesitation, the company were told that it was extremely doubtful whether it could be approved. I should interpolate here that at that time, of course, the Council had not come to any decision upon the principles of the County of London Plan, and the responsible Committee were naturally concerned not to commit the Council until the Council had come to a general decision on the Plan. But we realized that the proposal was quite against—and indeed would cut across—the proposals outlined in the Plan for the development of the south bank, and in May, 1945, the alternative site at Rotherhithe was suggested to the Company. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, has said, that is just two years ago; later on I will come to the question of how that period of two years has been utilized, or rather how the Company have failed to utilize that time.

Our objection was that the proposal was against good, sound planning, and, in addition, that it violated the whole conception of the development of the south bank. This opposition by the County Council was no mere negative gesture. We realized, when we came to that decision, that it would involve the County Council in a very considerable expenditure for compensation and for additional cost, an expenditure which is estimated to be—as it was then—of the order of £1,250,000. It was no easy decision to make to incur a liability of that amount, most of which must be borne by the ratepayers of London, in the interests of planning. But, finally, I and my colleagues said: "This is really a test of the reality of planning. If we mean anything by the County of London Plan, except that it is a most attractive book, we cannot permit this project to go forward, although it will cost £1,250,000 to avoid it." We therefore said that we could not approve the proposal, and that we should be willing to undertake the expenditure, reserving, of course, as always, the right to make appropriate representations to the Government for an adequate grant towards such expenditure.

What are our grounds of objection to this proposal? There s, first, the objection to the proposal that the power station should be within the vicinity of St. Paul's. That is an important objection. But it is not, if I may say so, in my view, or in the view of my colleagues, the main objection. It is, however, an important objection. It cannot fail to have a deleterious effect on the amenities of St. Paul's Cathedral, however its surroundings on the north side may be laid out in accordance with the City of London Plan, which I understand has now been completed by Doctor Holden and Doctor Holford, the architectural consultants to the City Corporation, St. Paul's Cathedral is not only a London shrine and a great national possession, but also a Commonwealth symbol. This proposal will destroy the possibility now at hand of securing a worthy, dignified, and harmonious vista of this great architectural composition. As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, here is one of the great opportunities of history,' and I hope that for the sake of saving a few months—and the saving is utterly speculative and doubtful, for reasons which have been indicated and which I may amplify in a moment—we shall not throw away this opportunity and permit this proposal to be carried through. If we do, I do not think we shall escape, nor shall we deserve to escape, the reproach and condemnation of posterity even as we often reproach our predecessors.

The main objection from the point of view of the County Council, as the planning authority, is not only to the power station itself, but to the fact that the existence of a power station on this site will condemn Bankside, and much of the area around Bankside, to a development of a character very little different from that which encumbers it now. The County of London Plan envisaged, as the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, said, that in this area development should be for cultural, educational, commercial, and residential purposes. The mere presence of a power station in that area, however well designed, however sited on the ground, whatever attractive or elegant facade it may present, whatever gardens or trees may be near or may surround it, will determine the development of the area, and the development will inescapably be industrial. No one would wish to have good-class residential property, educational property, cultural property and good-class commercial offices erected adjacent to a power station. Either, therefore, this wide area will need to be re-zoned for industrial user, or the land will lie derelict; there is no alternative, and there is no escape, I submit to your Lordships, from that consequence. I would ask your Lordships to envisage a power station on the north bank, between Waterloo Bridge and Blackfriars Bridge, and then ask yourselves whether, if that were the position, there could have been the dignified development there has been on the north side of the river. I think one needs only to state that proposition to find the answer; and the answer must be "No."

This, then, is the gravamen of our objection—that this project will endanger and impair the worthy and seemly development, not only of the immediate area at Bankside, but of a much wider area of South London. The harmful effects and consequences of this decision will be spread far beyond Bankside. In the County of London Plan there are proposals to regenerate large areas of South London, to replace grit and dismal dimness with order and amenity. The condition of Southwark cries aloud for fair treatment. This proposal, if it goes through, will be a blank and brutal refusal of that treatment. Southwark has borne for nearly 100 years the suffering and discomfort, the dirt, and the ravages of disordered and unregulated building. It has less open space than any other borough in London. In the County of London Plan the modest proposal was put forward—and it has been accepted by the County Council—that there shall be four acres of open space per 1,000 persons. In Southwark they have one-tenth of an acre of open space per 1,000 persons. They are entitled, as I have said, to fair treatment and social justice. That is why the Borough of Southwark are firmly against this proposal to build a power station at Bankside.

As the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel, said, those who are opposed to this scheme are supported by the Royal Institute of British Architects and a long line of distinguished and renowned architects, as well as by the authorities of St. Paul's and of most informed town planning opinion, not all of whom are necessarily—to use that rather graceless designation of the Minister—"highbrows." That is the main outline of our case, but if the House will bear with me I would like to deal with one or two of the more important points made by the Minister at the Press conference on May 6. I will refer only to points not dealt with by the noble Viscount, Lord Samuel. The Minister emphasized that he had to try to reconcile the claims for amenity and for electric power. The amenity objections are even more important to-day than they were in May, 1945, when we indicated our opposition to this proposal, because we now have the certainty of architectural unity of treatment on the south bank and the City Corporation's Plan for the treatment of the river across the Thames in the vicinity of St. Paul's. The Council's suggestion of an alternative site at Rotherhithe reconciles amenity with the provision of expanded electrical power.

The Minister then went on to say that the new building would be a good neighbour to the cathedral, half a mile across the river. The County of London Plan promotes the idea of neighbourhood units, but it certainly did not contemplate such an incongruous expression of architectural neighbourliness as this. The construction of a power station in this particular position, in relation to the scheme for opening up a vista with St. Paul's Cathedral, in our submission would be an affront to every canon of worthy and dignified planning composition. The Minister further remarked that a bigger power station was necessary at Bankside, and that others would be needed elsewhere, because in 1951 the electricity requirements of Greater London would be 67 per cent. higher than in 1946, and it was estimated that by 1960 they would be twice that of 1951.

The evidence given by the Central Electricity Board at the inquiry shows that an estimated demand in London of 2,808,000 kilowatts is expected in 1950 and 1951. The first half of the Bankside station to be completed by that date would supply only 105,000 kilowatts, or less than 4 per cent. of the estimated demand. At the inquiry, London's requirements in 1960 were put at about 4,379,000 kilowatts, The Bankside plant, with its full output of 210,000 kilowatts, would then be supplying less than 5 per cent. of London's needs. Bankside's contribution can never be more than 4 or 5 per cent. of the whole, and I ask your Lordships, is it worth while spoiling the London plan in a vital spot for so small and indeed so transient a contribution to the electricity supply?

The Minister then went on to say that since it took about four years to build a power station there was little time to be lost if the demands were to be met. I have told your Lordships that the County Council suggested the site in Rotherhithe in 1945, and it was agreed by all concerned that on this site a power station producing 300,000 kilowatts could be erected. As has been pointed out—and I would like to reinforce and emphasize this—if the company had seriously considered this alternative when it was put to them, the station at Rotherhithe might now be well under way to completion. Moreover, at Bankside the existing station must be taken down when half the new one has been built, whereas if Rotherhithe ultimately replaces Bankside the two stations can operate together until the whole of the new Rotherhithe station is in operation. That is not an unimportant point, especially in relation to the claim that we mint have an expansion of power as quickly as possible.

Furthermore, suggestions have been made within the last fortnight by the County Council which, it is reliably expected, would reduce by four months (and if certain other suggestions prove capable of being carried out, may reduce by more than four months) the time which until recently it was thought would be necessary for the acquisition and preparation of the site at Rotherhithe. It has been pointed out that if the alternative alterations at Bankside station, caused by the use of fuel instead of coal, are as extensive as Mr. Randall—representing and writing for the City of London Electric Lighting Company in his letter to The Times of May I—suggests, some months must be occupied in revising the working drawings of the structure before a contract can be let. Thus it seems to us that any saving in time may prove to be as illusory as it is, in any case, questionable on other grounds. The Minister said that the choice of site was limited because it had to be by a river, near the area of distribution and of about seven or eight acres. But Rotherhithe, as your Lordships know, is near the river; and this site is on the river. it has an area of approximately eleven acres and coal, instead of oil, could be the firing element. I am not a technical man in these matters of the generation of electricity, but I believe it to carry authority and weight when I say that the generation of electricity by oil firing will, in the present state of development, be much more expensive than the generation of electricity by coal firing, and the increase in cost is considered to be of a substantial order.

The final point I would like to make in connexion with the Minister's statement at the Press interview is in regard to his remark that the County of London Plan was "quite tentative". He did not expect a start to be made on the south bank scheme for at least thirty years, and by then the power station might possibly have been made out of date by the development of atomic energy. Any proper plan of development must be tentative in detail. Nothing could be more fatal to good planning than rigidity in detail. But that does not mean that the County of London Plan is not positive in conception and intention. There can be little doubt as to what is the intention of the Plan as to the overall pattern of development at Bankside—as the Minister must well know. It includes as part of the reconstruction of this area, the removal of the Bankside generating station and the erection of blocks of offices, flats, buildings of an educational and cultural character, and the provision of a riverside walk and gardens. The Minister mentions thirty years. That is pure conjecture, and I submit to your Lordships that whatever be the length of time it cannot be used as an argument for permitting a major and determinant development which will prevent the Plan from being realized or carried out. That would be the effect of this proposal to build a new and larger power station at Bankside.

I want to say only this with regard to the City of London Electric Lighting Company—and I hope I say it fairly, without prejudice and without bias, although I confess to feeling very hot at times about this proposal. The company cannot claim to have been helpful. They took up the attitude from the start that they were at Bankside and they would remain at Bankside—a kind of j'y suis; j'y reste attitude. I feel bound to say that the consideration which has had to be given inter alia to expanding the generation of electricity in this country as the result of the fuel crisis has been a godsend to the City of London Electric Lighting Company. I do not believe for one moment that, but for the fuel crisis and what has emerged from it, this decision would have been come to. I would not be fair and just if I said that the Company are cashing in on this emergency, but in my view it is in consequence of that emergency that this decision has been made.

We at the County Hall are not—as I am sure your Lordships are not—insensible of the need of expanding generating capacity as quickly as possible; nor are we insensible of the difficulties of various kinds which face the Government. Two years ago we contacted the Ministry as to a comprehensive investigation for siting new generating stations in the London area. We are not opposed to generating stations, but we are opposed to them if they are not in the right places. It may be that there is a strong case—there is certainly in the minds of some people who are qualified to speak—that at least some of these stations should be erected outside London, down the Thames Estuary. In any case, we submit that Bankside is the wrong place for a generating station. I have the gravest doubts—and these doubts are shared by many others more informed on the technical aspects than I—as to whether any time will be saved at all. Plant, through the shortage of steel, may well form the bottleneck. I believe it is the case that other projects for new stations, or the enlargement of existing ones, where no difficulties as to site or buildings have arisen, are, nevertheless, being held up for plant because, inter alia, of the shortage of steel.

The Minister says that the people of London need power and warmth as quickly as possible. No one disputes that, and it is, indeed, the case. On a parity reasoning one could justify anything, and indeed in the past that was done. Tomorrow was generally sacrificed to to-day. One might, for instance, having regard to the housing problem, seek to justify building houses without bathrooms, without lavatories, without separate water supplies. One might justify these things on the grounds of urgency. It would be proposing to do precisely what was done fifty or sixty years ago—and reproducing with a remarkable fidelity precisely the same result. In all humility—which I must confess is a quality strange to me—I beg your Lordships' House and the Government to consider whether the long- term interests of the future are to be sacrificed for a brief and indeed problematical advantage for the present. If that be so—I do not want to overstate the position—it may well mean an end of planning in any real sense, and we may have to abandon many of our hopes and aspirations of a better London. If this project proceeds I submit that the replanning and redeveloping of London will be just for to-day without a care for the to-morrows that follow. London is littered with non-conforming buildings: that is one of our great problems of replanning and redeveloping London. If care is not exercised, then bit by bit, by project after project, planning will be submerged in a new ugliness dressed up to appear to be beautiful. That is what we are in danger of doing on this occasion. The issue here is, do we mean to plan or don't we? I do not believe the people of London would wish that this station should be built, with all its harmful results on the planning of London, in order that they have a greater electricity supply a few months earlier. I believe that they would be willing to accept whatever hardship might be entailed. As in war, so in peace, they will "take it" for the London they love. I am convinced that they do not want the planning of London to be jeopardized for their own brief advantages. For the people who live in the mean streets, the narrow courts, and the slums, who battle day after day with dirt and grime—for them planning means comfort, convenience, cleanliness, and also beauty, which are real things. They will understand and appreciate. They are behind us, I am convinced, when we beg the Government to think again and to reverse this decision.

May I conclude on a personal note? I have played a not inconsiderable part in the formulation of the County of London Plan, and in promoting a number of important comprehensive schemes in token of fulfilment of some of its beckoning conceptions. I am not a Londoner, but I have lived in London for forty years. I am passionately devoted to London and its people, to the ideal of a convenient, comfortable and dignified London. I believe that there can be no community happiness, physical or spiritual, except in healthy and worthy surroundings. For me and my colleagues at County Hall, the County of London Plan is no book of pictures of agreeable designs: it is a challenge and a faith. I would beseech the Government not to cast down those of us who seek a better and a finer London, those of us who told the people of London in the dark and dangerous days of enemy attack that we would build a better London. We meant it at that time; at County Hall we mean it now. We wish to keep faith. I ask the Government not to discourage us, and not to destroy the faith of the people in our or their sincerity.

3.58 p.m.


My Lords, you may well wonder why a Bishop from the banks of the Wye should be intervening this afternoon in a question which primarily affects the banks of the Thames. My answer is that for nearly ten years before moving to Hereford I was the Bishop of Southwark, and I should be failing in my duty and affection to my former charges. if I did not use this opportunity of associating myself with the far wiser words that have been spoken—with much greater technical understanding of the problems involved, and greater eloquence, than I can command—by the noble Lord, Lord Latham, and other noble Lords who preceded him. I do not propose in any way to go over the same ground that they have so ably covered. I would rather concentrate on one point, and that is the matter of the jeopardizing of the whole development of South London if this scheme goes through and, as a consequence, the probable modifying of the City of London Plan as regards the southern bank of the Thames.

To my mind it is not merely a matter of the æsthetic considerations, though these are of the greatest importance, and I need not say that I associate myself heartily with the defence of the beauty of St. Paul's. There are two other churches of cathedral rank which are also concerned. I cannot believe that those responsible for Westminster Abbey are wholly unconcerned with what happens on the south side of the Thames; and certainly my former cathedral of Southwark, one of the smallest but one of the most beautiful of our cathedrals, would suffer if this change of Plan were allowed to proceed. But it is not the æsthetic argument that I urge, but rather a moral one; for I believe that, after all, the healthy and the worthy living of millions of our fellow citizens, now and in the generations to come, is really bound up with what we do now as regards the south bank scheme. And it would be jeopardized, and might have to be given up altogether, if this Bankside power house were to be erected. It is of incalculable value to people who are now living in such surroundings as the citizens of Southwark and other South London Boroughs are living that they should have free access to open spaces and fresh air, and, in fresh air and plenty of light, to that great glory of our capital, the river. They do not have it at present.

When you have the time, if you will try to catch a glimpse of the fine buildings on the north side of the river from the area on the south side, between Waterloo Bridge and London Bridge, you will find that it is only with the greatest difficulty and, possibly, with some ingenuity, that you can obtain such a view. And then it will be only between the cracks and crevices which separate that strange collection of buildings which occupy—I will not say adorn—the river bank. If this Plan went through, people who now live in crowded and dark habitations would have access to splendid thoroughfares, flanked by gardens, with the river beyond. That would be worthily completed by a series of noble buildings, many of them dedicated to the use of the general public. What a difference that would be—a difference for which centuries to come would bless the present age. It is because of my concern for that which I hope your Lordships will agree is a moral as well as an æsthetic issue, and something far more than a merely utilitarian one, that I beg to associate myself with the London County Council, with the Mayor of Southwark and with all of your Lordships who, like myself, see fit to take this opportunity of doing all in our power to see that this change of plan and this Bankside power station shall not be proceeded with.

4.2 p.m.


My Lords, I am quite certain that your Lordships will all desire to be associated with me in expressing our appreciation of the sincere speech to which we have just listened from the right reverend Prelate. We shall always listen to him on future occasions, for he speaks with high moral dignity and the full application of his knowledge and experience to the good things in life. We shall hope to welcome him again and again in your Lordships' House. So far as Southwark is concerned, I, too, know that borough, and it has always been a matter of deep regret to me that that beautiful little Cathedral has been submerged by bridges, breweries, hotels and railways until it can hardly be seen. It is an advantage of the planning scheme that we are going to have, that at least the railway bridges over the Thames which have dwarfed that cathedral will be removed. With regard to this debate, it is interesting that there has been such unanimity in the attack on private enterprise. Private enterprise, uncontrolled, has been attacked in particular with great broadsides from the Opposition, and I welcome the change of heart on the part of those who, in the past, have supported, with all the eloquence at their command, this unrestricted development of uncontrolled private enterprise.


My Lords, may I interrupt to say that that was never the attitude of the Party to which I belong.


I need hardly say that I am delighted to learn that this change of heart was not in the noble Lord, because he never possessed such ideals. However that may be, let me say that we have to live with private enterprise for the time being, and, in consequence, it has been necessary to secure, in the Government plan, the support of private enterprise for these primary needs of the ordinary people of our country. I do not know whether the Government are going to reconsider this scheme or not; I have no information. But I do feel that in considering the present proposal, or in considering any alternative, there are certain primary factors that ought to be borne in mind. In the first place, it is obviously unwise to assume that a power station need be an ugly project. I would venture to suggest that those of your Lordships who may have visited the Royal Academy will perhaps have seen in the architectural section representations of two of the most beautiful public buildings that this country could have, one of which, the Nottingham power station, is a thing of beauty even though it is also a thing of utility. There can be, therefore, no reason for turning down a project on the basis that a power station is ugly merely because, in the past, power stations have been ugly, and because the present power station at this place is exceedingly ugly. Even private enterprise learns that it is unwise to affront public opinion by putting up buildings of such colossal ugliness as that to which London is exposed in the existing small Bankside power station.

I would, however, suggest that it might be wise to put the new design for the shell of the power station—for after all a power station is merely a shell for machinery—out to limited competition, and not to rely only upon one architect, even an architect of the eminence of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. We want the young architects to have a chance, we want to have nominated by the great architectural schools young men of promise, maybe young men who have been away serving in the war and who have not had much opportunity to develop their ideas. We want to give young architects a chance to bring out that which is new in the growing and developing architectural ideas of the country. So I put forward, for consideration, the suggestion that we should be prepared to have a change in the contract for the power station, along the line of introducing limited competition. To this, I am perfectly certain, a man of the eminence of Sir Giles Gilbert Scott would willingly give his co-operative assistance.

One other factor, I think, ought to be borne in mind in connexion with this particular place, and that is that a power station is not only a manufacturer of electric current, it is also a manufacturer of heat. I do not refer to heating by means of electric fires or other apparatus but heating by the utilization of residual waste heat. That has already been made use of in the case of another great power station in London, from which hot water for baths and central heating is being carried over the river and is warming to-day, at no cost in fuel at all, some thousands of houses. It was estimated by a writer in The Times a few days ago that something like 50,000 tons of coal annually could be saved by the utilization of the residual heat from the new Bank-side station. The residual heat, instead of being wasted, would be utilized to provide heating and hot water for thousands of houses in the immediate neighbourhood of the power station.

The right reverend Prelate mentioned the possibility of damage to the development of open spaces in Southwark. But your Lordships will have seen from the plan in Committee Room C that there is no interference with the Bankside road at all. The station is set more than two hundred feet back amidst trees and grass, and the road proceeds from bridge to bridge entirely uninterrupted. And, after all, if you are really concerned with beauty, let me remind your Lordships that the Abercrombie Scheme for the south bank has not been accepted by the London County Council; it is under consideration still. And what is it?


The principles of the scheme for the south bank were accepted by the London County Council, during the Chairmanship of the Town Planning Committee of the present Minister of Town and Country Planning.


Precisely, but not the details, and I can see no reason for assuming that a power station of proper design, a beautiful building, could not fit in with the details of any plan—unless, of course, it were to be held that a beautiful power station can never be so beautiful as a block of flats or business offices. I could not agree with that. I believe that a beautiful public building can be more beautiful and useful than even the best designed block of flats or business premises. This proposal, I believe, does not interfere with the Abercrombie plan to the extent which has been suggested by my noble friend, Lord Latham. As regards St. Paul's, I understand that the revised City of London Plan still surrounds the Cathedral with blocks of business premises. I may be wrong, but I understand that is the case. All there will be is a vista cutting from St. Paul's to the river, which will enable those who stand by St. Paul's to see the blocks of flats and business premises on the other side instead of the most beautiful part, at least, of the new power station. A new power station at Bankside would enable the old and ugly contraption we have at the present moment to be cleared away at a much earlier date than would be possible.


But why?


Because at the present moment we need all the electricity we can have; therefore we cannot afford to suffer even the loss of the relatively small percentage which comes from the old Bankside station. Within the next eight or ten years, however, it will be possible to eliminate the smaller old station and secure the advantage of a larger, more modern and more cleanly oil-fired station. That is the reason why it would help us to remove this monstrosity at a much earlier date. We have heard a good deal about amenities, but can one enjoy beauty if one is cold? Can one enjoy beauty if one has no hot water? Can one enjoy beauty if one has electric apparatus but is not able to turn it on because of the shortage of generating capacity? Surely if we are in a position to combine amenity with beauty there is no reason why we should turn down a project which should be persisted in for the good of the people of London as a whole.

What I complain about is the thoroughly bad public relations work of the Government. The public relations department is there to advise the Minister as to whether or not there will be opposition to his plans, and to tell him how to get across what is wanted by the Ministry in the interests of the people. Do the public relations departments have access to the Ministers? Do they foresee what is going to come about? Have we, as a matter of fact, enabled certain opponents of the proposal to get well ahead in the influencing of public opinion? I do not know; but I do think there should be always a simple rule for the guidance of those who wish to secure acceptance of a policy. There should be, first of all, an explanation of exactly why the proposals are made. There should be consultation with all those concerned and the fullest possible information as to the objects and the results of what is proposed, so that, in our democracy, all the people may be in a position to make up their minds whether a proposal is good or bad. That, after all, is the advantage of democratic discussion. I hope that the result of the discussion in your Lordships' House will lead to a decision in the interests of all the people.

4.18 p.m.


My Lords, the case against the Bankside station has been very fully stated by previous speakers this afternoon and by a long list of distinguished letter writers in The Times. I want to speak on only one or two points which add to the formidable accumulation and weight of condemnation which this scheme has received. Mr. Monkhouse, one of the few supporters of this scheme in The Times—the only other two apart from him have been, very naturally, the firm who are going to build the station and the architect who is going to design it—in his letter, asserts that an oil burning power station will deposit vastly fewer products of incomplete combustion within the area. I am informed by experts that if dense or obvious smoke is not present or is "consumed" there will be just as much danger, or more, to the fabric of St. Paul's as if smoke were emitted by the chimney.

The products of the combustion of any fuel, solid, liquid or gaseous, are chemically highly injurious to all limestones, particularly in an atmosphere which besides being polluted is infected with continuous damp. The products of the combustion of liquid fuel are not chemically less productive of decay than those of solid fuel. The agents of decay do not necessarily show. That is to say, if the amateur does not see any smoke coming out of a chimney, that does not remove the danger. If it is decided to make the chimneys of the proposed power station miraculously low, the damage to St. Paul's will be many times greater than we imagine, because there will be a greater concentration of injurious gases in the lower levels of the atmosphere.

No doubt the Government will have observed this afternoon—it has been pointed out by various speakers—how unanimous and widespread is the opinion against them on this point, and that there is no aspect in it of party bias. The Labour London County Council, the Labour Southwark Borough Council, the Conservative City Corporation, are all opposed to this proposal. Sir Patrick Abercrombie (the distinguished author of the great Plan for London), the Royal Institute of British Architects, the London Society, the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings, and the Joint Parliamentary Amenities Group are all opposed to it. By not submitting the site to the Fine Arts Commission, the Government have indicated their well-justified anticipation of the verdict it would have received.

Surely the weight of such opinion must raise in the mind even of the most complacent politician some suspicion that for once he may be wrong. We know, of course, the strains and the cleavages that go on within a Cabinet, and how tempting it is to throw overboard the long-term principles in order to ease a short-term emergency. That fleeting and ephemeral phantom, the Minister of Fuel and Power, has acquired from his winter disasters the panic attitude to life, and he rushes about like a man trying to prevent the breaking of a dyke by filling the gaps with little pieces of sand. But we were given to understand that the Government were so intelligent that they knew there were better and more permanent methods of preventing a flood. I am feeling very much discouraged with the intelligence the Government have shown in this matter. I feel rather like an American lady I knew, who used to complain[...] "I married Tom Malcolm for his brains, but he has been a sad disappointment to me."

Surely the whole point of the Government is that they believe in intelligent planning. If not, what on earth is the point of this Government? I am a convinced planner myself. It seems to me obvious that it is better, both in war and in peace, to have a strategic idea rather than to deal as best you can with every difficulty as it arises. Mr. Silkin, of course, thinks so too. He has thought so throughout his career, and that is why he was made the Minister of Planning. It is for that reason the Ministry of Planning was created. The Minister of Planning has been very rightly called by someone the "Minister for Posterity," and he must be aware that posterity will not arise to call him blessed if, in order to tide over a doubtful and possible gap of eighteen months, he destroys for ever the proper construction and design of the next great new London.

The layout of the south bank is the keystone of the new London that was to arise from the devastation of the war. I have heard people ask, "What does it matter about London anyway, an ugly and shabby old city, past praying for?". But London was not always ugly, and the fascination of London is that it always reflects the ideas and spirit of the time. Consequently, in more centuries than not, London has been a beautiful city, reflecting the great ages of our history. The crowded colour and turgid life of medieval London, reflecting in its architecture and layout the fierce and formidable Elizabethan conception of existence, must have made a fascinating city. Very little of it is left; the Great Fire destroyed most of it. But a new London of even greater beauty arose in the eighteenth century, reflecting the noble and stately aristocratic conception of a civilized society. What the Thames can be like can be seen in Canaletto's famous picture owned by the Duke of Richmond.

More of 18th Century London is left than of medieval London, but there is not a great deal of it, and it is rapidly decreasing. The industrial revolution destroyed most of it. We all know what the industrial revolution made of our cities, and London reflects that indifference to ugliness, that concentration upon utility, which was characteristic of the middle-class business men who controlled the 19th Century. A great deal of the deadly monotony of the residential districts and the insanitary filth of the industrial slums has been destroyed by the Germans. There will be a new London to reflect this eager and ardent young democracy which has pinned its faith upon the Labour Government. The Government are proposing to betray that faith, and to abandon the great Plan for London which was drawn up by Sir Patrick Abercrombie at their request. If they do, the new Landon will reflect the chaos caused by that betrayal, and I urge them once again to reconsider this disastrous and reactionary step.

4.27 p.m.


My Lords, I know no more than I have read in the papers about this proposal, and, therefore, I do not propose to offer any opinion on its merits or demerits. But, as has been said by other speakers, the principles raised go beyond this particular case. What appears to have happened is that a local authority—the biggest and most important local authority in the world—has been told, in regard to part of its plan, and at a fairly advanced stage in its planning, that it must take a part back and do it again. That is exactly what other and lesser local authorities are afraid is going to happen to them. They are afraid that, after they have taken considerable trouble and spent a lot of money, some Minister, sometimes after a very little warning, will say that the scheme will not do.

I am wondering whether the noble and learned Viscount the Lord Chancellor can explain whether it is the Government's attitude that the location of electricity undertakings is a matter which falls rather outside the competence of local authorities. There are matters, such as the military training grounds which we discussed in your Lordships' House not long ago, where local authorities may have views, and do have strong views, but obviously they cannot give a final judgment as to their use. But, prima facie, this matter appears to be a domestic matter and one which the London County Council could properly decide. If the Government agree that it is a matter within the discretion of the local authority, but contend that the local authority have not used that discretion very well, it seems to me that rather a different position arises; and when the Town and Country Planning Bill comes before your Lordships' House we ought to consider how this kind of frustration and waste of time and money can in future be avoided.

4.32 p.m.


My Lords, in rising to add my small, but very decided, quota to the general chorus of disapproval of the Governmental scheme with regard to this projected blot on the London landscape—a landscape which already contains far too many for it to be able to afford any new ones—there is only one point I want to raise. It is a point analogous to the first one raised by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. I find that on May 5 there was an all-Party meeting in another place at which Mrs. Bolton, Chairman of the L.C.C. Town Planning Committee, made—among other statements—the following: You, Mr. Minister, have decided that Bankside should be an oil-fired generating station, but an oil-fired station will mean no less noise and probably more smell than a coal-fired one. Sulphur fumes are most objectionable. Mr. Silkin will remember, when he was Chairman of the Housing and Public Health Committee of the L.C.C., the serious complaints he received about the sulphur fumes from Battersea Power Station. Gas washing plant was installed to diminish this nuisance, but the nuisance is not eliminated and the surrounding area is blanketed in sulphur fumes at times. The sulphur content of oil is appreciably greater than that of coal and there is little doubt that a pall of smoke would sometimes hang over the Bankside area … That seems to me to accord very ill with a statement in one of the numerous letters written to The Times on this subject—a letter sent by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, in which he said: But I must point out that the Bankside power station will be unlike any other station in the world; it will emit no smoke or grit. I trust that the representative of His Majesty's Government who is to reply on their behalf will perhaps enlighten us on this point. I confess that I feel very strongly about this matter. I was born and bred in this city, and, as has already been said, it is a city which at the moment is far from having a prepossessing appearance. It has been beautiful once, and it should be beautiful once again. I would remind your Lordships that at the end of the last century there was a poet—Lionel Johnson, I think—who, in a moment of ecstasy before that incomparable dome, wrote: Afloat upon ethereal tides, St. Paul's above the city rides. I hope that His Majesty's Government will be able to assure us that these ethereal tides will not, in the near future, be tides principally of sulphur.

4.36 p.m.


My Lords, perhaps it may not be inappropriate for the first Chairman of the ad hoc Town Planning Committee of the London County Council to say a few words before the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack replies for the Government. I must confess that it seems to me that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, is always called upon to speak for the Government when they have a very bad case. I have a certain amount of sympathy for him on that account, but I have no sympathy for anybody who says it is right, almost before a scheme has begun, that it should be vitiated by an important exception at the behest of a Government Department. After all, the London County Council represent London; and, in this connexion, not only London, but Greater London and all interested in proper planning. I well remember from 1929 to 1934, when I was Chairman of the Town Planning Committee of the London County Council, that I had as one of my Vice-Chairmen the honourable member for Maidstone, Mr. Bossom; and one of the latest of my successors as Chairman was Mr. Silkin. It seems to me that the proposal to build this power station is going back on all the principles, not only of the latest Town Planning Act, but of the Acts of 1925 and 1932, the latter of which I remember particularly, because I sat through every meeting of the Committee in another place. I remember well how difficult I found it, at the very outset, to convince the developers that where there was a plan they must comply with it. What is the use of having a plan if the moment it comes into force you vitiate it by making an exception? Now in 1947, with a grand new Plan for London, made all the more possible (as your Lordships will realize) by the enormous damage done to London during the blitz, and with a real opportunity of making London a worthy Imperial capital, before almost anything is done the Plan is to be vitiated by a scheme which is proposed only to save, possibly, eighteen months in getting more current for London.

I would like your Lordships to realize that if this mistake is made a precedent will be set. If the Government allow the City of London Electric Lighting Company to go against the County of London Plan, everybody else will say: "You allowed that company to do it. Why cannot you allow us?" If this scheme is to be vitiated right at the outset, you are going to put the London County Council in an extraordinary and impossible position. Remember this, too: that if you make the mistake (and it would be a major one) of allowing this generating station at Bankside to be erected, you will vitiate that site and the whole of that part of the scheme—not for a few years, as was suggested by one noble Lord, but probably for a century and a half. Once you have this power station there, you cannot go back on other people who desire to follow suit, for there will be no power behind the Town Planning Authority to insist on the rest of the scheme in that locality being adhered to.

I do not think this breakaway from the Plan is altogether on the call of the Minister of Town and Country Planning; the real enemy of this London scheme is the Minister of Fuel and Power. There is no question about that. I guarantee that, whatever be the defence of the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack, the scheme will deserve the term "rotten," because this proposal is so absolutely short-sighted. I had a good deal of experience in those five years when town planning in the built-up areas was more or less in its infancy. If a Government Department had come to me then, and told me that I was to allow an excep- tion, I would have said: "It is not your business; it is the business of the London County Council." If you are going back on a practically unanimous vote of the London County Council, what is the use of asking any local authority to undertake any work at all? You are simply undermining the power of the local authority and, as I say, if this Bankside scheme is to be allowed to go forward, we might just as well abolish the Plan, because there is nothing to prevent other people saying: "You did that for the City of London Electric Lighting Company, why cannot you do it for us?" There is no answer to that. In other words, the Plan is killed just after its birth.

I would earnestly ask His Majesty's Government very seriously to consider whether it is wise far them to persist in this negation of all that is good in planning. You may as well tear up your Acts dealing with town planning if you allow this Plan to be upset at its inception. For that reason, I hope very much that all members of your Lordships' House, both present and absent, will condemn this departure from a scheme which has been very largely made possible by the foresight of the foremost authorities, and which is backed by one of the finest men who ever did any town planning—namely, Sir Patrick Abercrombie. I hope your Lordships will show in no uncertain way that you feel this is wrong, and that no Government Department should interfere with what is really a local government matter. Otherwise the whole spirit of local government will be endangered. Nobody will stand for a local government authority if Government Departments are going to dictate and say: "We know better than you." Heaven forbid that that time should ever come!

4.51 p.m.


My Lords, I am very glad that we have had this debate, in the course of which many of your Lordships who speak with great knowledge and experience have made most valuable contributions. I am able to say that the contributions which your Lordships have made will certainly be considered by the Government. May I say at once that I agree with the noble Lord, Lord Llewellin, who moved the Motion, that it is the duty of Parliament to criticize and to watch the current administration by the Government; and on no topic and in no regard is it more important than a topic of this character. All through my life I have, as some of your Lordships know, been very interested in æsthetic questions. Indeed, I enjoy controversy on those topics more than controversy on any other, and I get more excited about those topics than I do about any others. So certainly I am not the one, and nor is any of my colleagues, to brush aside æsthetic considerations.

If it were the fact, or if I believed it to be the fact, or if I thought there was a danger of it being a fact, that we were destroying the amenities of St. Paul's—which I think was the phrase used by the noble Lord, Lord Latham—in order to get warm a winter or two earlier, then I should be entirely opposed to the scheme. But, whilst we must have regard to æsthetic considerations, equally we must have regard to utilitarian considerations. It would be poor consolation to a man rubbing his cold hands together to keep warm, to think, having sat there cold during two winters: "Well, I may be cold, but thank heaven the historical dominance of St. Paul's over the river has been preserved." It is a question of maintaining a balance between the two points of view.

Another matter I would like to mention is that sometimes Mr. Silkin, the Minister of Town and Country Planning, has been indicated in your Lordships' speeches as being the villain of the piece; and sometimes it has been Mr. Shinwell, the Minister of Fuel and Power. So far as the Minister of Town and Country Planning is concerned, I think it is common knowledge that he was entirely opposed to the construction of a coal-burning power station at Bankside. For the rest, the decision to build an oil-burning station was a decision taken in the ordinary way in which such decisions are taken—at the highest level—and it is a decision for which we all share collective responsibility. I, for instance, bear just as much responsibility as either of the two Ministers to whom reference has been made. That, I think, is the best answer I can give to the noble Marquess who spoke last.

I presume that your Lordships who have taken part in this debate all know, or have seen recently, the existing power station. It was constructed as a power station some fifty-five years ago, and it was reconstructed some twenty-one years ago. How I wish that fifty-five years ago and twenty-one years ago some discussion like this had taken place, because of all the buildings I have ever seen I think that is about the worst! It has no conceivable æsthetic merit, and, as very often happens on these occasions, it is as inefficient from the point of view of producing electricity as it is ugly. It consumes a most unnecessary amount of coal, and it is used really as a reserve station. All one can say about the station is that, ugly as it is, and inefficient as it is, it fits in with the existing surroundings.

The proposal that was submitted for a coal-burning station Was submitted to the Electricity Commissioners and to the Minister of Town and Country Planning for their respective consents. The noble Viscount, Lord Gage, asked a question about that. The position is this. The London County Council are, of course, the Planning Authority for the area; but where a proposal by statutory undertakers has been submitted to a Government Department for sanction the procedure is for the planning issue to be referred direct to the Minister of Town and Country Planning, instead of being dealt with, in the first instance, by the planning authority and referred to the Minister only on appeal against their decision. That is the recognized practice. A public inquiry was therefore held; the issues were thoroughly canvassed, and the London County Council stated very fully the case against the new station.

We must remember that at that stage the proposal was for a coal-burning station. After taking into consideration everything said at the inquiry, both the Commissioners and the Minister came to the conclusion that consent should be given, subject to certain very important modifications. One of those modifications, of course, was that the electricity should he generated by oil instead of by coal. That makes it possible to set back the station from the river front sufficiently to allow for the construction of a riverside road and promenade, as was envisaged in the County of London Plan. The design and elevation of the station will be subject to the approval of the London County Council, as the Planning Authority, or of the Minister of Town and Country Planning on appeal. They will also be submitted to the Royal Fine Art Commission. I have had put up outside this Chamber (I received it myself only on Saturday) a preliminary sketch of the proposed station prepared by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, and I anticipate that all your Lordships have seen it.

Now a word or two about the need for a power station; and here I am being purely factual and trying to avoid controversy. Both the interests of industrial revival and of domestic comfort, it is obvious that we must have additional generating power, and the need is particularly great in the London area. Let me tell your Lordships what the position was during last winter, when we had those very unpleasant cuts. The available generating plant was approximately 2,069,000 kilowatts, and the maximum load, if there had been no restrictions, would have been over 2,200,000 kilowatts. You see that the discrepancy, if I disregard the word "over" which was given to me by the experts, was only 131,000 kilowatts; and yet we all remember the discomfort we suffered. The trouble is that the growth of demand in the London area is estimated to be at the rate of 200,000 kilowatts per annum, and in order to meet this growth, and to replace obsolete plant, another 1,200,000 to 1,500,000 kilowatts are required in the London area between now and the winter of 1950.

The Board's programme to make up this total, apart from extensions to existing stations, includes new or reconstructed stations at Blackwall Point, 90,000 kilowatts, Croydon 316,000 kilowatts, Kingston 120,000 kilowatts, Poplar and West Ham 180,000 kilowatts. That is in addition to Bankside. To deal with the demand beyond 1950, additional sites will have to be found, because as the noble Lord, Lord Latham, rightly said, it is the fact that by 1951, or shortly after, the demand will be 67 per cent. greater than it is to-day. That gives you some picture of the measure of the problem. We shall certainly need five additional riverside sites, including Bankside and Rotherhithe. Unfortunately, it is not the case of Rotherhithe being alternative to Bankside; they have both to come in, and also three additional riverside stations. It will be very difficult to do that, because in selecting sites I will say no more than that strategical situations cannot be disregarded.

The London County Council suggested that Rotherhithe, which is three to four miles further down the river, can be used as an alternative site, but I think the conclusive answer to that is that we shall need both Bankside and Rotherhithe and others as well, and as soon as we can get them. It is agreed that a station with a capacity of 300,000 kilowatts could be built at Rotherhithe. The land has not yet been obtained but an application for it will be made very soon. It is a difficult job, and much more difficult than Bankside, both by reason of the nature of the sub-soil and also because a road, and a big sewer have to be diverted, and that does, of course, make for delay. It is estimated that if both Bankside and Rotherhithe were started at the same time, the first half of a new station at Rotherhithe would come into operation probably two winters after the first half of the station at Bankside.


What date is that?


We hope to get the first half at Bankside by 1950, and therefore Rotherhithe would be two winters later than that.


That would be so only if the normal procedure of acquisition and contract were followed.


I do not think there is a good deal you can do apart from acquisition, except to get on with your plans and all that sort of thing. The Ministry of Town and Country Planning, the Ministry of Fuel and Power, the Central Electricity Board and the Electricity Commissioners have gone into this matter in very great detail, and the estimate they gave me is that there will be two winters between Rotherhithe and Bankside. But, as I say, it is not a question of their being alternative to each other. Unhappily we must have both, and that is the difficulty. I do not pose as an expert on these matters, but I am told that it is very important to obtain riverside stations if possible, because not only do riverside stations facilitate transport of fuel but they also eliminate the need for cooling towers, and to the extent that they can be built in the locality of the demand expensive underground cables will be avoided. I am afraid I am unable to carry figures in my mind, but when this mater came up for my consideration I asked for some figure as to the comparative cost of building a station down the river at, say, Tilbury. The cost is absolutely prohibitive. I will not attempt to quote figures from memory, but I can assure your Lordships that it was quite prohibitive.

The Bankside site is, from the practical utilitarian point of view, an ideal site, and the whole output of the first section of the station—and I think this is important—will be required within a radius of about a mile of Bankside. The present emergency demands that the reconstruction of this station should be allowed to proceed unless there are really strong reasons against it.


Might I ask the noble and learned Viscount whether he can tell us how much increased annual cost is involved in converting it from coal to oil?


I will give your Lordships all the figures. I want to make this part of my statement as factual as I can, and give you all the figures, because without a knowledge of all these facts it is clearly very difficult to form an opinion. As the noble Viscount suggested, I will now turn to a comparison of oil with coal. First of all, in regard to delay. The Times article of May 17 suggested that the decision to burn oil would involve re-designing the station altogether, and would result in nearly as much delay as the change to a different site. You will find people, when they are convinced of the justice of their cause, using all kinds of arguments to buttress their views. That is not the case at all, and the facts are these. Working drawings have not been prepared for the coal fired station, and the time-table envisaged—which, as I have said, is to complete the first half by the winter of 1950—allowed time for this work. In fact the change to oil firing will simplify the design and will quicken completion of the station.

Now I come to the next question, the elimination of sulphur. Gas washing will be introduced, and although there may be certain technical difficulties due to the higher sulphur content of oil than of coal, all the experts who have been consulted are confident that sulphur will be successfully eliminated. Because oil burning is new, in this country at any rate, an ex- perimental plant will be run up first to decide the best method of eliminating sulphur, and six months' operation of the experiment will probably be necessary before the engineers can finally design the plant to be installed at the power station. I cannot guarantee that the gas washing plant will come into use as soon as the first section of the new station comes into operation, but it may be possible to complete it in time, and, in any event, it will be completed fairly soon after the station begins operation. We believe, as I have said, that these difficulties can be surmounted. If we find that there is a danger that these difficulties may not be surmounted then I quite agree that is a real argument against the scheme. But in our discussions of the scheme I was told that sulphur could be effectively eliminated. I agree that that is a sine qua non of the scheme.

There is no doubt that the cost of generating power at Bankside by oil instead of coal is substantially greater. I asked that estimates should be prepared for me, and it is estimated that a sum of between £400,000 and £500,000 per annum will be involved as additional cost due to the use of oil instead of coal; that means that the cost of the electricity generated will be increased by something like a third. This is on the assumption that oil costs £6 a ton and that coal costs £2 10s. od. a ton. The station when in full operation would require some 300,000 tons of coal per annum but it would require only 200,000 tons of oil. Oil burning does entail some savings, both in capital cost and in operation. The cost of gas washing can be taken as much the same, whether coal or oil is used. It is therefore the fact that, with oil generation, electricity from Bankside will be expensive. But we believe the additional cost is worth while, in view of the speed with which new electricity can be made available at Bankside. The shortage of electricity during last winter must have cost the country many millions of pounds. It is no easier to build an oil generating station away from the river than it is to build a coal generating station away from the river. Cooling towers would be needed in both cases and pumping of the oil would be very difficult, possibly impracticable and certainly very expensive. In all probability oil would have to be taken to the station in trucks or waggons in the same way that coal would have to be taken if the station were away from the river.

Up to this point I have endeavoured to be purely factual in my statements, to give your Lordships the information on which arguments for and against this matter can be based, Now I come to what I refer to as the St. Paul's argument. It has been said that the erection of this power station will interfere with the historic dominance of St. Paul's over the river. Let us have the dimensions. The power station, of which your Lordships will see a sketch outside the Chamber, will be something like 87 feet high. I think I am right in saying that Faraday House is about 120 feet high compared with this 87. It is 450 feet long by 230 to 280 feet wide, according to design. Apart from the chimney, which will be designed as a tower, the building will not be more formidable than any large public building, block of flats, or offices. There will be only one chimney and the maximum height of that will be 300 feet; it may be 275 feet, but the engineers may design it to be increased to 300 feet. Therefore I would rather, in discussing this matter, that noble Lords should assume that the height will be about 300 feet, though it may in fact be only 275. It will be designed as a tower, which I hope and believe will add to the beauty and proportions of the building and will not compete with St. Paul's. St. Paul's stands on land 42 feet higher than Bankside and measures to the top of the cross about 370 feet—rather over—and is therefore over too feet higher than the top of the tower.

When people say that the erection of this tower is going to spoil the view and the dominance of St. Paul's, I should like to ask from what site it would do so. I have been at some pains to go and see from what site and at one and the same time I could see both the tower—or where the tower is to be—and St. Paul's. Going up and down the river—unless you are cross-eyed—you cannot see both the northern and southern banks at once. From Waterloo Bridge if is possible that you would see the top of the tower appearing over other buildings. You might not be able to see the building at all unless and until you got right over Waterloo Bridge on the Strand side. If you are careful you might Select the site—it is only about two square yards—where at one and the same time one can see St. Paul's and Blackfriars. Owing to the river curve they cannot both be seen from Waterloo Bridge, although the top of the tower would be visible from just in front of Somerset House.

One might of course go to Hampstead Heath or Parliament Hill Fields, where, on a clear day, both buildings could be seen at the same time. And, of course, one could see them from an aeroplane. But I submit that it is fanciful to suggest that the one interferes with the other. If your Lordships will be good enough to look at the model which is now in Committee Room C, you will see that the argument about destroying the dominance of St. Paul's is—well, I leave it to the fair judgment of anyone who has not already made up his mind and who is prepared to look at the model.

Now about the view from St. Paul's. went to see whether, from Ludgate Hill and the area immediately around St. Paul's, I could see the existing power station. From Carder Lane, owing to the fact that some of the buildings there were knocked down during the blitz, one can see the power station. Then if you walk down to Trigg Lane, which is by the riverside, and look across the river, you can also see the existing power station. But what harm is done if a man, standing with his back to St. Paul's, and looking across the river, sees this building? If the building is ugly, then that is a very good reason for not having it. But if it is beautiful, then, whatever sort of building it is, why does it interfere with St. Paul's if one has to face in the opposite direction from St. Paul's to see it?

From the other side of the river, owing to the fact that some houses in, I think, Lavington Street, have been blitzed, you can see St. Paul's: but you can see it only from behind the power station, and you would not see the two together. But Lavington Street will be built up again, so in the future one will not be able to see the cathedral from there. Therefore, I maintain that the argument based on the dominance of St. Paul's over the river, or the idea that the power station will in some way compete with or interfere with the view of St. Paul's, is really not right, and has no substance. Let me say at this point that no one knows what is going to be done with the area round St. Paul's. The present scheme is to provide a vista so that standing with your back to St. Paul's you will look over the river, and if one looks at a fine building there, so much the better.

That leads me to speak about the power station building which is to be situated half a mile away across the river. The architect is Sir Giles Gilbert Scott. I fail to understand why this power station should not be a very beautiful building; indeed, I do not see why it should not be an architectural triumph. I must protest against the theory which seems to run through most of the speeches delivered by your Lordships this afternoon that, by reason of some rule of nature or art, whatever it may be, a power station is æsthetically less attractive than a block of flats or a block of offices. If I were asked to say whether I thought Lambeth Bridge House—I think that is the name of the building occupied by the Ministry of Works—æsthetically more attractive than Battersea Power Station, I may be wrong, but without hesitation I should say that I greatly prefer Battersea Power Station, disfigured though that station is, as I say frankly, by the necessity of having apparatus for the unloading of coal in front of it. Now that qualification will not apply to the new power station at Bankside for, as you know, the plant is to be oil-burning.

I believe that, fundamentally, all the criticism is based upon an argument which runs like this: "A power station must be ugly; therefore do not let us have a power station, let us have instead a block of offices or a block of flats." "Then," I suppose the argument runs, "they must be lovely." If anybody thinks that structures of that sort must be lovely, I beg him to go and look about London. Why should there be this underlying theory that a power station must be ugly? Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, in his letter to The Times—and you may discount it as much as you will because he is the architect—states that, from the architectural point of view, it is very much easier, in his belief, to deal with a power station than to deal with a block of flats or offices, and that it provides much better scope. I do not set myself up as an arbiter in this, but I think that the scale plan which is, at this moment, outside this Chamber, is very satisfying, and I cannot, for a moment, accede to the suggestion that a power station is not likely to be, and indeed cannot be, made an exceedingly attractive building.

When I come to the planning argument I must say that it seems to me to be a much more formidable one, but that it is also founded on one complete fallacy, and that is that because you have one public utility building which, as I have said, may be a beautiful one, therefore you must have all public utility buildings; that if you have one industrial building you must have all industrial buildings; that if you have a power station, then the whole of the area in that neighbourhood must be power stations or industrial buildings. Of course, if the point made by the noble Lord, Lord Derwent, were right, that the power station will emit noxious fumes or cause great noise or something or that sort, then one could not have blocks of flats, offices or civic buildings check by jowl with it.

But if these objections are eliminated and a really beautiful and æsthetically satisfying building is erected, why should not the buildings adjoining be civic buildings, flats, offices or what you will? That, at any rate is the view taken by the Minister of Town and Country Planning and, having gone into this matter, he thinks that it is perfectly possible that there can be other buildings of the sort which I have mentioned adjoining the new power station. It is all very well to say that this is like putting an alligator into a water-lily pond. That begs the whole question. On the contrary, I would say that this may well be another large and beautiful lily in the lily pond. It is a question which of the two arguments is right. The argument is not advanced by calling the station an alligator, and I do not advance it by calling it a water-lily. The question is, why cannot you have things of public utility together with other buildings if noise and fumes are eliminated; and why cannot you have this public utility building which may enhance and should in the immediate future enhance, the appearance of the whole neighbourhood?

I agree with what Sir Giles Gilbert Scott said in his letter. I am afraid the belief that a power station must be ugly is ineradicable but I am trying to eradicate it as far as I can. The belief is also held that if you have an industrial building in an area, however beautiful it may be, other buildings around it must also be industrial. That, again, may well be an ineradicable belief but again I am trying to eradicate it. As to the actual site, the station will be clean and it will be noiseless. It will be surrounded by a considerable area of open space, grass and trees and flowers. The building will extend over only two acres of the site of over seven acres. It will be set back 210 feet from the river and there will be ample space for the river promenade. We shall eliminate the necessity to have coal unloaded from barges, which would have given rise to dust. The oil will be pumped into tanks through pipes, passing underneath the roadway and the gardens, and will in no way interfere with the river promenade. I believe the tanks will be covered in and the gardens will actually be above the oil tanks.

With regard to the Plan, it is quite true that the London County Council have, I think, adhered to the general principles of the Plan, which were for civic buildings and office buildings, in front, and light industry behind in this area. I wonder how many of your Lordships realize the immensities of this Plan. I do not suppose for a moment that even the youngest member of your Lordships' House will live to see the Plan carried out. The more urgent priorities for the London County Council are in regard to the development of Stepney, Bermondsey, and the Elephant and Castle. The part of the river bank between Blackfriars and Southwark Bridges would not be the first part to be tackled; the first part, I imagine, would be the stretch between County Hall and Waterloo Bridge.


That, of course, has been tackled already.


That is the first part, and when you have done that you possibly come to the part between Waterloo and Blackfriars. That is probable.


Not necessarily.


There is a distinction between "necessarily" and "probable." I am stating only what is probable. The noble Lord, Lord Latham, agreed with me that that is possible. Possibly the third stretch will be that between Blackfriars and Southwark.


May I elucidate? It does not follow that these stages will be successive; it may well be that a part of one stage will be done while you are doing part of another.


Certainly. The Minister of Town and Country Planning, who knows a good deal about this, calculates that it will be thirty years before the part between Blackfriars and Southwark is tackled. I merely mention that. I am not seeking to make an attack on anybody but only to indicate the immensity of the problem.


Thirty years has no more authority than fifty.


If you like, I will substitute fifty years. Do not let us get excited. I wish to indicate that the L.C.C. has an immense problem. It must not be thought that because there is a departure from the Plan, it is something which must be done within the next few days. It is not so. It may well be that if you adhere rigidly to the Abercrombie Plan you may not be able to tackle this region until thirty years' time.


Is that not all the more reason why we should stick to the Plan, so as not to vitiate the future?


I am trying to indicate that there is every reason why we should consider this scheme on its merits and not have regard to a rigid adherence to a plan which may not be carried out for thirty years. Suppose within the next few years you do construct in this dreadful area a really fine building, which does great credit to the neighbourhood, might that not be the beginning of a development in a district which otherwise would not be started for thirty years? I concede at once that everything depends on the building being a fine, worthy building, so constructed from an engineering point of view that fumes, smell and noise are eliminated. It can have equally fine neighbours and, if I am right, then, in the interests of Southwark, we can well put up this building within the next few years rather than wait for what may be—not must be—many decades before we can get rigid adherence to the Abercrombie Plan.

In bringing my remarks to a conclusion, let me summarize the case for asking your Lordships to agree to the erection of a new power station at Bankside. I have indicated, and it cannot be denied, that more power is a most urgent need. It is a fact that it cannot be provided as quickly on any other site as it can be provided on Bankside; that in any event Bankside will be needed as one of the sites, and that, in the opinion of His Majesty's Government, a power station in which the heating is generated by oil not only will not prejudice the redevelopment of the south bank for public, commercial, and residential purposes, but will accelerate its development for those purposes by starting the Embankment promenade and removing the old and very ugly power station many years before this would otherwise be possible. I am bound to say the debate has disclosed no facts which were not previously within the knowledge of His Majesty's Government when the decision was made. Some of the facts have been stated in rather different, more forcible, perhaps not quite so accurate a way, but nevertheless I am able to tell your Lordships that I will draw the attention of my colleagues to what has been said in this House, and will ask that they should consider, in the light of the debate, whether the scheme ought to go on.

5.30 p.m.


My Lords, I must say I have listened with some amazement and a good deal of admiration to part of the speech we have just heard from the noble and learned Viscount. He said I was possibly wrong in describing this new power station as an alligator in a water-lily pool, and asked why it should not be a water lily? I must say I have never seen a water-lily so well gilded as it has been by the noble and learned Viscount this afternoon. In fact, I came to the conclusion that if we took for granted all that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, said, we ought to go out and clamour to have a further power station in Parliament Square on the site of the old Westminster Hospital. Let us have one next to Westminster Abbey, so that we may really have the benefit of this wonderful structure he has described to us this afternoon.

It has been an interesting debate, and it has been a worth-while debate. I am not certain that the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, was quite correct in describing the conditions anticipated in the future, because I gather that if the County of London Plan comes into operation there will be these large vistas, and one will not have to go down to Carter Lane or Trigg Lane in order to get a view. These vistas will be provided by taking down some of the existing buildings, and utilizing for this better purpose some of the places that have been bombed.

I hope I am not one of those speakers whom the Lord Chancellor said were not very accurate, but in regard to the question of having to have this site at Bank-side, I gather than in any event it is planned to use the Rotherhithe site. Why should not one have another site further down the river? What was the real argument? The argument was, largely, the cost of the underground cable to bring the electricity to where it would be used. The noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, did not have the figure in mind but we may take it that it was a considerable sum. The noble and learned Viscount gave a figure as to how much extra it will cost by making the change to oil fuel from coal—a figure between £400,000 and £500,000. If we capitalize that sum at 2½ per cent. it means that this station is to cost £16,000,000 more. I do not believe it would cost £16,000,000, or anything like that figure, to bring the cables from a site further down the river. I do ask the noble and learned Lord Chancellor to bring that fact to the notice of his colleagues.

My noble friend the Marquess of Aberdeen said he hoped this House would show in no uncertain way what it felt. I think we have done that without the necessity of going to a Division. I thank the noble and learned Viscount on the Woolsack for his promise to bring to the attention of his colleagues in the Government the views expressed in this House and, indeed, the deep feeling that a number of noble Lords have shown on this subject. We represent a very large section of feeling, both in London and in the country as a whole, and that is the message I would like the noble and learned Viscount, the Lord Chancellor, to take back from this House to his colleagues. I still hope that when they have heard this discussion, and the discussions that have gone on and will go on in the Press and in another place, we shall be relieved of this beautiful gilded lily at Bankside. With these observations, I beg the leave of the House to withdraw my Motion.

Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.