HL Deb 21 July 1953 vol 183 cc663-5

2.50 p.m.


My Lords, I beg to ask the Question which stands in my name on the Order Paper.

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether, since the junction of Conduit Street with Bond Street is one of the most congested spots in London, the plans for the new building in course of erection at this corner allow for the frontages to both streets to be set back at least 10 feet; whether the new building is to be a large hotel; and, if so, whether the entrances will be arcaded to decrease interference with traffic.]


My Lords, I am informed that the local planning authority—in this case the London County Council—gave permission on April 13, 1953, for the erection of a hotel on this site in Bond Street. As regards the size of the hotel, I understand that it is to have something in the region of 240 rooms. To give a measure of comparison, that is about the size of Claridge's and the Dorchester, or half the size of the Savoy and Grosvenor House. The main building, according to the plans approved by the London County Council, will conform to the existing building lines on Bond Street and Conduit Street, just as those of the new Time and Life building do on the opposite corner, but an arcaded footpath, affording a clear width of 10 feet, will be provided within the building along the whole length of the Bond Street frontage. This will enable the road in Bond Street to be widened, and it is a condition of the planning consent that the developer shall consult the London County Council's chief engineer in regard to the line of widening. The main entrance to the hotel will be from Conduit Street, and the approved plans make provision for cars to drive in and out within the curtilage of the building. I have taken the liberty of putting a set of plans and elevations of this hotel, which I hope may be of some interest to your Lordships, in the Royal Gallery.


My Lords, I beg to thank the noble Lord for his very courteous reply and also for the trouble he has taken in placing a set of plans in the Royal Gallery for us to study. I am gratified to see that two of the objects mentioned in my Question—namely, the widening of Bond Street by 10 feet and the arcading of the entrance to the hotel—are being fulfilled. But will not the noble Lord make representations to enable the Conduit Street frontage also to be arcaded, so that that street, too, may be widened by 10 feet, because there is no doubt that there will be very great congestion in Conduit Street when this hotel is built? Also, will the Government realise that this site is about the least suitable in the whole Metropolitan area in which to construct an hotel? Have they comprehended that the existence of the Cumberland Hotel, on a less congested site, is still a very great interference with traffic? Is it generally understood that, if we are to cope with the greatly increased motor traffic, which is inevitable as time goes by, we have to think years and years ahead, and make plans accordingly? What apparatus is there for ordinary citizens like myself to have prior knowledge of these stupid plans, so that we may start agitating early enough?


My Lords, before Lord Mancroft replies, may I associate myself with the thanks expressed by my noble friend Lord Blackford to the noble Lord for having taken the trouble to put these plans in the Royal Gallery for us to see? I would also associate myself in general with the remarks of Lord Blackford, and perhaps I may be allowed to go a little further, in view of the strong feeling in this matter, and in view of the great national loss caused through the delay to traffic in that area, and particularly in Bruton and Conduit Street. Is it too late that there may even yet be a complete abandonment of the idea of building an hotel in that region?


My Lords, these are two very important questions, and they go a little further than the actual scope of the original Question. With regard to traffic in Conduit Street, that, clearly, is a problem, and I can assure the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, that my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and the Commissioner of Police are considering it very carefully. If I may say a word in regard to the whole of the wider question of planning, this thought occurs to me: we have delegated legislation in this case to the planning authority, who are the London County Council. Many of us have in the past questioned the wisdom of delegating too much, but it does seem to me a little difficult, having once delegated that legislation, to be constantly jogging the elbow of the authority to whom we have given the power. The London County Council and not the Minister of Housing and Local Government are the planning authority here. The noble Lord, Lord Blackford, asked what he personally can do. Well, my Lords, the London County Council is a democratically elected body, elected by the ratepayers of London, and the Council's proceedings are held in public. There, I should have thought, lies the solution to the noble Lord's grievance, rather than asking that the powers of the Council should now be curtailed.


My Lords, does not the noble Lord think that the importance of having a really first-class modern hotel in the centre of the West End of London may be worth even some slight additional traffic congestion in that area?


My Lords, my opinion in this matter is clearly not worth while, but the London County Council are obviously in agreement with Lord Gifford.