§ 2.40 p.m.
LORD SILKIN rose to call attention to the Development Plan for London, with special reference to the City of London; and to move for Papers. The noble Lord said: My Lords, the Town and Country Planning Act, 1947, required every local planning authority to make a survey of its area and to prepare a development plan. The London County Council, in accordance with the provisions of the Act, made their Plan and submitted it to the Minister on December 31, 1951. The Plan was duly examined; there was a long inquiry on it, and in March, 1955, the Minister approved it, with modifications. I think it is opportune that we should to-day examine this Plan, see what its implications are, so far as London is concerned, and, in accordance with the terms of my Motion, also have regard to the position of the City of London and the plan
which has been submitted by Sir William Holford for the lay-out of the precincts of St. Paul's. In giving his approval to the County of London Plan the Minister congratulated the London County Council upon the completion of a remarkable work, and he said:
The preparation and adoption of this comprehensive design for the world's greatest city is a significant event which in years to come will be accorded a notable place in the pages of London's history.
It was indeed a memorable task, within a short time of the end of the war, to have prepared for the first time in London's history a really comprehensive development Plan.
§ In the short time at my disposal I propose only to touch on a limited number of the aspects of the Plan. In preparing this Plan the London County Council were faced with a number of difficult problems. In the first place, the County of London is only a relatively small portion of the built-up area of London. Geographically, of course, it is a very small portion; in population it represents about one-third of the total built-up area known as Greater London. Greater London is administered, from a town-planning point of view, by seven counties and by three county boroughs, and it is impossible to plan effectively one small portion of Greater London without having regard to the planning of the rest of the area. Nevertheless, there appears to have been little, if any, consultation between the ten planning authorities concerned with Greater London; and still less, so far as I can see, has there been any collaboration between them. So the County of London has had to be planned in isolation, despite the fact that the various parts of the whole area are completely interdependent. There are, for instance, one million people, or thereabouts, coming into the centre of London every clay, many coming from Greater London, and so far as industry and commerce in inner London are concerned, the provision of housing and other amenities that are available for the people in Greater London are of great concern. It seems to me that one of the inevitable things that will have to take place will be some form of regional planning for Greater London. There must be one body which will be in a position to take a view of the whole of Greater London 1075 and look at it comprehensively. So far, nothing of that kind has been done.
§ In any plan for London, or even for Greater London, there are two conflicting forces at work. On the one hand, there is the great need for reducing the population and relieving overcrowding and congestion—which we all agree has become a most serious matter in Greater London—by decentralising industry and commerce, and by removing population. On the other hand, there is the vital importance of doing nothing to make us less efficient or to interfere arbitrarily with the development of our industry and commerce. These factors are pulling in opposite directions. On the one side there is the draw of London for industry and commerce. There is the availability of big markets and of labour; there is the fact that London is a capital city, and capital of the Commonwealth, a great port and a great administrative centre. All these factors are a draw and tend to increase the amount of industry and business in London and are factors which we ought not to ignore. On the other side there is the desire to reduce the population and to reduce the amount of industry and business premises in London. It is of the first importance that there should be a careful balance between the two and that these two conflicting factors should be reconciled. A distinction should be drawn between those businesses and those industries which are compelled to carry on in the County of London or in Greater London and those which could equally efficiently and conveniently be carried on outside. So far as I can see, in the County of London Plan and in the way in which the Minister proposes to deal with it, judging by the approval which he has given and the modifications he has made, no attempt is being made to differentiate between those industries and businesses which are vital to the interests of London and those which are not. They are dealt with indiscriminately and without any regard to their relative importance.
§ For instance, the Minister has recently announced that we have more offices in London than we need, and that in future, in certain districts in London, change of user from residential to office user will be prohibited. He did not add, "however meritorious the case might be"; his statement was absolute. I do not want 1076 to take a legal point, but in fact the Minister is under an obligation to consider each case on its merits. I do not know whether the noble and learned Viscount who sits on the Woolsack would like to comment upon that matter—I do not really ask him to—but it seems to me that it is not in accordance with the spirit of the Town and Country Planning Acts that the Minister should announce in advance that, however meritorious an application may be, he is going to refuse it; that, however important it may be from the point of view of the national interest, it will not be allowed. That is not exercising a judicial or a quasi-judicial or even, with respect, an administrative function. But that is the way in which applications are to-day being dealt with; and that is the way in which the County of London Plan is being carried out.
§ I wish to say a few words about Mayfair, not because Mayfair is particularly significant, but because it illustrates what I am saying. I want to tell the House that I am speaking from personal knowledge. I have a professional interest in some of the cases involved in Mayfair—not a personal interest, but a professional one which does at any rate give me a knowledge of what is going on. Let me quote one case in particular. Certain premises in Mayfair were being used under a temporary consent for office purposes. They had been so used for some five years, and the temporary consent was coming to an end at the end of this year. The occupiers therefore applied to the London County Council for an extension of their user of office use.
§ The London County Council were quite prepared to give a consent. They were satisfied that the premises were not suitable for residential occupation, and that they could not reasonably be converted into flats—the premises are one of those houses with a 29 ft. frontage, and four or five storeys high. They were quite satisfied on that point and, as I say, were prepared to give their consent. But the Minister called in the application—in other words, he said. "I am not going to allow you, the London County Council, to carry out your town planning functions. I am going to do it myself." An inquiry was held, and the Minister's decision was that, although the London County Council were of opinion that these 1077 premises could not be used for residential purposes, nevertheless he was not so satisfied and therefore, that the office use must be discontinued. It seems to me that that is a completely arbitrary way of exercising his functions. The London County Council, with their staff, are in a far better position to judge of these matters, and in any case they are a responsible local authority. Ought they not to be allowed to get on with their job, and to do it without the detailed supervision of the Ministry? That is merely an example —the Minister has called in all applications relating to Mayfair.
§ The effect of such a decision, and I think the House ought to face it, is that, while it is true that the occupier of these premises can let them for residential purposes—there is a great demand for residential premises of a particular character in Mayfair, and he can get a very good rent indeed—the only real demand for premises of that kind is for immoral purposes. And in the case I have in mind the occupier has had several offers to take these premises at very high rents. He has suspected, however, that it was proposed to use them for the purposes I have mentioned, and he has not let them. The London County Council fear, quite seriously, that the effect of this indiscriminate decision on the part of the Minister, that all premises in Mayfair should be used for residential purposes, even when they are no longer suitable for that use, will be in many cases to encourage their use for improper purposes.
§ I am sure that the Minister has no desire to do that and that he is actuated by the finest motives. His motives are that there is already too much industry and office accommodation in London, and that if we are going to depopulate London we must reduce the amount of industry and office accommodation. I should like to ask the noble Earl who is 10 reply whether he can tell us on what basis the Minister has come to that decision. Has he any facts upon which to arrive at a conclusion that, there is, for instance, too much office accommodation in London? All the evidence one has is that there is a tremendous shortage. It is exceedingly difficult to obtain office accommodation of any kind in London, certainly at reasonable rents. I wonder how the 1078 Minister has been to satisfy himself that we already have too much.
§ Then as to the location of offices: why does the Minister decide that there is to be no more office accommodation in Mayfair? The attractions of Mayfair are, of course, obvious, especially for business houses who carry on a good deal of their operations by means of entertaining. The City of London is notoriously not a good place from the entertainment point of view. If you have foreign visitors or people from the Provinces you desire to entertain, you generally have to take them up to the West End; and that takes a good deal of time, which is an important factor from the point of view of a business house. A great many businesses require to be in the West End, not only from that point of view but from other points of view. Is it not a good thing that office users should he dispersed throughout London, rather than be concentrated in one particular area? Is it not desirable from the traffic point of view, as well as from many other points of view? I should be interested to know why it is decided that there should be no more office users in Mayfair.
The Minister has decided that the amount of land that the London County Council has allocated for industrial user is too high. In his modifications to the County of London Man, he has stated that certain lands which the London County Council have allocated for industry should be reserved for housing. A good deal of that land, however, in the opinion of the London County Council, is quite unsuitable for housing. It is low-lying and next to railway lines, marshalling yards, gasworks and canals. I know some of the land; I have seen some of it which he has reserved for residential purposes, instead of industry, in the Borough of Camberwell, and it is wholly unsuitable for residential purposes. The London County Council say:
We think it should be made clear that our views as to the suitability of these sites for residential use differ strongly from those of the Minister, that the Council is not corn-mined to itself undertaking their redevelopment and that we propose to reconsider the zoning at the next quinquennial review of the Plan.
So we come to this position: that, on the one hand, the Minister is saying that these sites should be used not for industrial purposes but for housing while, on
the other, the London County Council are saying "We have not the slightest intention of using them for housing."
§ What is going to be the future of these sites? Surely here again the local authority are in a much better position in details of that kind to decide what is the most satisfactory use of a particular piece of land. I would submit that the function of a Minister is to lay down general policy and to decide whether the Plan is, generally, on the right lines; but it cannot be his business to deal with individual sites and to say what a particular site in Camberwell should be used for —whether it is better used for residential purposes or for industry. I would therefore ask the noble Earl whether he can give us some enlightenment on this matter. The London County Council are proposing to carry out their dispersal by a number of different means. One is by building out-county housing estates; another is by the use of new towns, and a third is by the use of the Town Development Act, by expanding existing large towns. As regards expanded towns, they have made certain arrangements with two small towns, Bletchley and Swindon —though Swindon is not quite so small. Progress, however, is slow. For the scheme to be effective, they have to take out some non-conforming industries from London as well.
§ One of the problems is this. Supposing that an industry is willing to go out, it is necessary for it to dispose of its existing premises, otherwise it will not be in a financial position to go. A good many industries are willing to go. A good many who would probably find it not essential to be in London are quite willing to go out, provided that they have the financial resources to do so. But if they are compelled to sell their premises, it can only be to some other industry which wants to come into London. So the position is that London is not benefited in any way as a result of this disposal. I am told that to buy out all the industries that are willing to go out of London would involve the London County Council in a colossal sum of money: I do not know how much, but I am given to understand that the amount is quite beyond their capacity.
§ This is a national question. The whole country is involved in the future of London and there should be some con- 1080 tribution. I do not know whether the noble Earl, Lord Munster, can give us any information on this point. I am sure he realises that there is a problem there —I know that the Minister does. How is it proposed to deal with it? If it is not dealt with, are we not wasting our resources in getting industry out of London only to find that industry is coming into London again in the same dimensions?
§ I have dealt so far with industry and business premises, but there is one other serious problem with which all of us are these days acquainted and from which we suffer—that is, traffic congestion. To some extent, I suppose, traffic congestion is based upon the actual congestion of business and industry in London. The Plan includes no adequate proposals for dealing with traffic congestion. There are a considerable number of measures for street widening, traffic intersections and so on, but my noble friend Lord Lucas of Chilworth (whom we are all glad to have back with us) will, I am sure, confirm what I say: that street widening and facilities for the movement of traffic in London simply have the result of attracting more and more traffic into London which, at present, is kept out by the deterrent of slow movement. The more traffic is freed, the more traffic conies into London. So I do not believe that the solution lies to any great extent in facilitating the movement of traffic. I believe that the remedy required is something much more drastic. We have to plan London so that it becomes less necessary for traffic to move about at all.
§ There are a number of suggestions that I should like to make for consideration. The County of London Plan talks about neighbourhood planning, but I see little evidence of this in the Plan itself. Neighbourhood planning would involve making a number of more or less self-contained units in London, each with its centre, its local industry, its local schools, shops and so on, so that the necessity for a certain amount of traffic to go across London would be reduced. It would be in a great many respects self-contained and there would be a tendency—though I do not say it would be an invariable fact—for people to find their occupation within the neighbourhood itself. I am sure that that would have the effect of reducing a considerable amount of traffic.1081
§ Then there are activities going on in London which definitely attract a large amount of traffic and which are to a considerable degree responsible for the traffic congestion. The existence of Covent Garden, Spitalfields and other centres of that kind causes a great deal of obstruction. It may be said that it is quite impracticable to move Covent Garden. I do not believe it. The cost to the nation of traffic congestion is enormous. It is perhaps not appreciated, because it is difficult to calculate, but a thing may be big even though it is impossible to calculate exactly what is involved. But every industrialist who is concerned with transporting goods through London would agree that the increased cost through traffic congestion is a considerable factor to him. If this heavy cost of transport were weighed in the balance as against the removal of one or two of the activities responsible for traffic congestion, i believe it would be found that it would ',pay handsomely to transfer some of these activities. I have already mentioned Covent Garden and Spitalfields. But some of the main-line stations, too, could very well be moved: they are responsible for a good deal of congestion, and in some cases their removal would cause no particular inconvenience. I agree that in others it might.
§ Again, it seems to me a policy of lunacy to have people travelling to and from their work to the extent of twenty-five or thirty miles each day, as many people do in London. We are concentrating business and industry in the centre of London, and then people move out. This is a trend that is taking place all the time—people are tending to move out from the centre to the outskirts, and then to come into London and congest. Because they then find that they are not able to travel satisfactorily by means of public transport, they bring in their cars or their motor-cycles or bicycles. This is going on to an increasing extent, causing more and more congestion. Would it not be sensible to provide more residential accommodation in the centre of London—in the City of London, in Westminster, in Holborn and Finsbury, and boroughs of that kind—and so reduce the amount of travelling to and from work? I am not advocating that the City of London should become a residential area, but that, coupled with 1082 offices, there should be a considerable number of residences in the City of London and in other similar areas, as was the case a hundred years ago.
§ Those are some of the ideas that I should like to put forward for remedying the congestion from which we suffer. But of one thing I am quite satisfied: we need something far more drastic thin is contained in the County of London Plan, merely widening a number of roads, and possibly even providing new roads, so facilitating the easy flow of traffic and thereby encouraging more and more vehicles to come into London. To my mind, the effect not only of the Plan itself but of the way in which the Minister is interpreting it is to bring about a grave danger of London becoming sterile, static, as a result of the restrictions that are being imposed upon business and industrial user. Of course, as I have said, ideally there should be some machinery by which it would be possible to discriminate between industries and other users who find it necessary to be in London and those who do not. A good many industries and offices could very well go out of London, and would do so if they were encouraged and given the inducement to do so. A survey was taken recently by the London County Council. They were most surprised to find that a large number of businesses were willing to go out of London if only they had the inducement—which of course is a financial inducement—making it possible for them to go out without added expense. To me, that seems not unreasonable.
§ There is one other thing that the Government could do—they could set an example. It is all very well for the Government to tell people who want to have their offices in London that they should go outside. But if the Government would only set an example by themselves removing outside London some of their offices which need not he in London, I think it would be most helpful and would set in motion a movement which I believe would be for the good of London. It is true that some offices have gone out from London, but in most cases they went during the war. I believe that when the Ministry of National Insurance was created it went to Newcastle-upon-Tyne. I am not at all making a Party point of this, but I believe that under the present 1083 Administration no Government Department has removed from London, although there must be a great many that could do so. Perhaps the noble Earl can give us some information on that subject. I believe that there is some discussion going on, but we want something more than discussion.
In my Motion I refer particularly to the City of London, but so far I have dealt only indirectly with the City. I want to say just a few words about the plan for the precincts of St. Paul's. In his comments on the London County Council Plan, the Minister said:
I cannot help feeling that a unique opportunity is being missed to provide a truly worthy setting for Wren's world-famous cathedral.
All of us are most grateful to the Minister for the enthusiasm and imagination that he has shown in this respect. As a result of his encouragement the City Corporation engaged Sir William Holford, who is one of our most eminent planners, to prepare a plan for the precincts of St. Paul's. Well, he has done so. There is a model of it on the Committee floor upstairs which I hope that your Lordships have seen; if not, I recommend it. It is at any rate a fine model; whether you like it or not is another matter. It gives a clear picture of the proposal. There has been a good deal of discussion in the Press. There was an excellent article in the Observer of Sunday, March 25, last by a Mr. Jordan, and The Times has contained some excellent comments on the matter. There has also been a good deal of discussion and correspondence, and the matter is being fully ventilated.
§ Like all matters architectural and æsthetic, it would be surprising if there were complete agreement on the subject. Your Lordships will not be surprised to hear that there is not even complete agreement on my side of the House, and I should be surprised to hear that there was complete agreement on the opposite side of the House. We all speak for ourselves. I personally am delighted with the Plan. I do not for a moment say that I like every aspect of it. Sir William Holford, whom I know very well, was at one time technical adviser to the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. Apart from having carried out a number of distinguished surveys of different 1084 towns, such as Cambridge and the City, he is to-day at the head of the University of London Planning Department. He is a man of great courage and imagination, and I think he has produced a most imaginative Plan. I believe that he has been influenced by the example of Venice, and one could not follow a more lovely example. The piazza he proposes is based on St. Mark's Square in Venice, and, though I do not know, I feel that he must have had Venice in his mind when he prepared his Plan. It is a matter for argument whether the example of Venice is a proper one to follow for St. Paul's, but I do not think it is a bad thing to take the best out of any city in the world, especially one of the loveliest.
§ Obviously one should not slavishly follow other examples, and whatever one recommends should be suitable for this country. I believe that Sir William proposes here something which would be suitable. We have special requirements, so far as St. Paul's is concerned. We cannot afford large areas surrounding the cathedral; on the other hand, we want the beauty of the cathedral to be seen from every aspect and every viewpoint. Certainly the best view, which one gets from Ludgate Hill, is a magnificent one which provides a dignified and worthy entry to St. Paul's itself. The Plan also provides a place where one can sit and meditate and keep in harmony with the spirit of St. Paul's. That is the purpose of the piazza. Apart from that, one has to recognise the intimate connection between St. Paul's and the life of the City. It has had commercial buildings virtually adjoining it and is a part of the City of London, so that it would be a mistake to make it too remote or to treat it as an oasis.
§ It seems to me that Sir William Holford, in his Plan, has managed to reconcile all of these conflicting ideas—though I am not trying to advocate them to your Lordships. I only ask that the Plan should be considered and that some decision should be made in the very near future; that we should not let the matter go by default. My fear is that everybody may have a different idea about it. This particular proposal may be discarded, and we may start all over again, employing somebody else to make a fresh plan, and reaching no finality. In the meantime, the opportunity may be lost, because 1085 it is a great hardship on owners of very expensive land, which remains idle, not to know what is to be its fate. It may be that the land involved should be publicly acquired, so that any plan will be safeguarded, but I can assure the Minister that no plan that he or any other authority may produce will be completely satisfactory to everybody. No plan will be without its critics, and I believe that we must all make up our minds that if we have a Plan which is generally acceptable we should go ahead with it. There are features about the Holford Nan which would criticise. I am not happy about the very high office building virtually adjoining St. Paul's, because I do not think a fourteen-storey office building is appropriate in that area. If there must be an office building I would rather have a much lower one. These, however, are details that could be threshed out. Generally, I feel that the Plan is a good one and that Sir William Holford is to be congratulated on having brought forward this courageous and imaginative proposal.
§ All of us who are Londoners are very proud of our great City. As a Londoner myself, I am very proud of it, and therefore I do not apologise for having taken up rather more time than I should have done in discussing the problems of London. We may find fault with London, especially when we go abroad and see other cities; but when we come back and see London afresh, we all feel that, after all, there is no place like London. It has far more beautiful buildings than any other city in the world, and far mare buildings of historic and architectural interest. And though, sometimes, they may be somewhat difficult to find and secluded, nevertheless they are there and perhaps the difficulty of finding them, their remoteness, is an attraction to any lover of London. We of this generation have an historic opportunity of providing a worthy setting for all this beauty and of creating a town with physical conditions in which people who live in London will be able to lead happy and healthy lives in a dignified environment. That is the task upon which all of us are agreed. Though we may differ as to methods, I am quite sure that, no matter in which part of the House we sit, and whatever our views may be, that is our objective. I hope that it will be possible for us to reach that objective without any further 1086 delay. My Lords, I beg to move for Papers.
§ 3.29 p.m.
My Lords, I must apologise for once more speaking in your Lordships' House on æsthetic and artistic questions. These discussions on art and æsthetics are either fruitless or destructive, and it is alarming to see that the noble Earl, Lord Munster, who so much disliked the Buxton Memorial Fountain, and who, on occasion, can be one of the more ruthless of the formidable young Ministers sitting on the Conservative Front Bench, is to answer for Her Majesty's Government. I hope at any rate that he will not be intimidated by the forty-five Members of another place who have come out against Sir William Holford's Plan for St. Paul's. If they had been five Members, their importance might have been once again accepted; but no one can believe that forty-five can understand even the elements of art and œsthetics.
The almost unanimous opinion of instructed people young enough to have an opinion at all is that the scheme is an admirable one, and seems to me very unfortunate that a mass of vocal verbiage should endeavour to submerge what is the best lay-out for St. Paul's that we are likely to get. No doubt the Plan is not perfect, and minor criticisms that do not: really affect the Plan as a whole have been legitimately made—to-day we have heard Lord Silk in make suggestions with regard to a slightly lower skyscraper in the far north west corner and the placing of Temple Bar. But surely it can be, seen at a glance how subtle and satisfactory the general layout is, and with what skill Sir William Holford has solved the manifold and complicated problems involved. It would have been so easy to surrender to the clamour of the neo-Georgians, and to repeat with wide open spaces and elaborate vistas the vast errors by which Mussolini and his architects destroyed the approaches to St. Peter's. With courage and vision, Sir William Holford gives St. Paul's some extra space, removes its thunderous traffic and leaves the great Cathedral surrounded, but by no means dwarfed or obliterated, by its clustered houses. Surely that is the right treatment, and I am afraid that the forty-five critics in another place will find all artistic opinion under sixty against them.
1087 I say "under sixty" because after that age—and I am afraid that I have to include my old friend the President of the Royal Academy—the eye can, as a rule, recognise only the difference between new and old and not the difference between good and bad.
Within the last few weeks, uninstructed politicians, with eyes concentrated on their own important purposes, have destroyed the Imperial Institute. They will, I have no doubt, now proceed to destroy the admirable plans of Sir William Holford. In both cases—that of the Imperial Institute and that of St. Paul's—they have had the Royal Fine Art Commission against them. Artistic judgment and appreciation does not come naturally to politicians, any more than it does to children. I share with all my fellow-countrymen, a wide distrust of experts—indeed, there are many fields in which the layman's opinion is as good as, and is certainly less prejudiced than, that of the expert. But that is surely not so in the field of design. No one ventures to interfere in the design of the "Queen Elizabeth", in the design of the Comet, or in the design of Rolls Royce. So why not leave the design of cities to those who know and understand how to do it?
§ 3.33 p.m.
§ LORD GLYN
My Lords, I venture to intervene for a few moments to support the Motion which has been moved by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in regard to this position and the proposal relating to St. Paul's, and to say how much I agree with every word that has been said by the noble Viscount, Lord Esher. But there is one matter in regard to planning in the City of London which I think deserves a little further consideration. The City of London is a very proud place, and within the last few years the London County Council have been made the planning authority over and above the City. That was done at a time when I think feelings were running rather high, and when the idea of planning was, perhaps, taking too great a place in the perspective of the view. I think it did a great deal of harm to the prestige of the City itself.
In this matter of St. Paul's and its environment, and the rebuilding of the City after the bombardment in the last war, I regard it as unfortunate that there should be a divided authority. I think 1088 the time has come when there ought to be a special authority, with representatives on it of the Minister of Town and Country Planning, the London County Council and the City of London, so that something will be done to prevent the unfortunate delays which now take place in making decisions between what is wanted by the City and people concerned in the City and by the London County Council. Undoubtedly there is a great deal of jealousy, or something of the sort, which is delaying the rebuilding of the City on lines which I believe posterity will consider the right ones.
Some of us who have been connected with the City and its rebuilding since the bombardment have had experience of the appalling delays, which have meant heavy financial losses and the missing of great opportunities which might have been seized had there been one authority. In my view, the time has come when, if we really are proud of the City of London and what it means—and after all it does mean a great deal—a special authority should be created representing the London County Council, the City of London and the Ministry of Town and Country Planning. I have personal knowledge of delays extending to six or seven months before it has been possible to get a decision. That means not only great financial loss from the point of view of the acquisition of property and its development, but also that there is no possibility for the architect, Sir William Holford, who has been referred to by both the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, and who is pre-eminent in his profession, to get any decision at all in regard to details. It seems to me that the opportunity is now available to create a special authority for development within the City which shall be worthy of our generation. We also have the opportunity of taking advantage of the damage done by enemy action to make great improvements.
One other matter which I wish to mention is this. I happen to have been a member of a committee under the old London Underground and London Transport many years ago, with Lord Ashfield and that very great planner, Sir Frank Pick, who was managing director of the Underground Railways. Lord Silkin has pointed out how difficult it is to arrange for the transportation of people in the Metropolitan area in these days. I 1089 was a member on that committee, started by Lord Ashfield and called the "Tomorrow Committee," and the object of that committee was to try to plan transportation and keep pace with the development of housing by the London County Council. But the London County Council carried out their great developments in the South East of London and they never arranged with the railways how people were to be moved from where they lived and slept to where they worked. The consequence was that the Tilbury and Southend Railway was never able to compete with the traffic which was offered.
A further point I should like to mention is that the shift of the population in recent years has never been taken into account from the point of view of London Transport. Addison Road would be a very central terminus for people who live in the West of London. It is better for them than Euston or St. Pancras or any other station. This West London extension of the railway is the only railway which connects the North with the Channel Ports. Nothing has been done to make that a terminal centre so that people can arrive from the North and go right through to the Channel ports without interchange. The whole of that area is available for development. It would make a great terminal station far more in the centre of population of the metropolitan area than existing termini in the St. Pancras district or in the north, but nothing has been done. This may seem a small example to give, but in planning London I feel it is worth while to consider the shift of population and what it has meant over recent years. Although very useful when they are built, tubes are very expensive to construct. Surely it is much better to develop an area like Addison Road Station, where there is direct communication between North and South by rail.
In all the development that has taken place in the City, one thing which seems to me to have been neglected is the great congestion in the narrow streets and the separate organisation of the police. I do not say for a moment that that should be altered, but we have the City of London Police and the Metropolitan Police. In organising traffic for people who come into London to work, there is a real need that areas should be allocated for car parking before the bomb sites are 1090 all built over. One thing that I remember from the days when I was on London Transport—it is something not always recognised—is the enormous financial loss on omnibuses, through congestion in the streets. Congestion adds very greatly to the cost of transporting people between where they live and where they work. It adds greatly to the burden imposed upon London Transport. I think we ought to realise that unless we do something very quickly, we shall reach a condition where the cost of transport will be beyond the means of working people.
§ 3.44 p.m.
§ LORD MOTTISTONE
My Lords, I should like to speak for a moment only on the question of the new plan for the precincts of St. Paul's. I have a reason for wishing to speak which perhaps might be considered a good one, because for the last twenty-five years I have lived, as well as worked, within six-hundred yards of the Cathedral. I think I can say that I know every brick and stone in the neighbourhood very well—perhaps now I should more appropriately say that I know every willow herb and button weed that grows among the ruins. Many mornings before breakfast I walk around that neighbourhood before the multitude arrives, and also in the evening, when the City workers have left for their homes. I could remember it before the war, when the Cathedral was surrounded by inappropriate and crowded buildings, and when I came back from the war I saw St. Paul's rising supreme above the ruins. So no wonder I love that neighbourhood and the building that crowns it.
I have waited day after day and year after year, wondering whether and hoping that an acceptable plan would be produced. To my mind, it has arrived. I should like to add my praise of Sir William Holford for the design of the plan which he has produced. It is a design for a layout which seems to me to include everything. It strikes just the right note. It is an unfolding plan in the nature of a close or series of closes. It brings the City to the Cathedral. It seems to have grown and not to have been imposed all of a sudden, and it is full of an element of surprise and, if I may say so, of happy inconsequence. I think it is wise not to attempt to put symmetry where it cannot be attained. Ludgate Hill completely rules out 1091 symmetry at once—and what a beautiful curve is the curve of Ludgate Hill! How much better than an absolutely straight avenue leading out at the west end of St. Paul's. Symmetry could not be obtained without enormous cost and it would have to be artificially imposed upon the area.
This is not the time or place to go in detail into the plan, but perhaps I can mention one or two points of particular interest—for instance, the raised patio on the north of the Cathedral, which provides a broad flight of steps down to the north-west tower. I like the suggestion of the return of Temple Bar to its place on the plan, for its return to an even more secluded court to the Chapter House and the garden, with St. Paul's Cross standing in it. The main forecourt is spacious. It is really much more spacious than it seems to be from the model. It is much larger than the present forecourt and I am sure that it will appear impressive. I like the loggia, or bandstand, on the south side of that court. It reminds one of a loggia in the scheme at Florence. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned Venice in connection with the plan. I feel that there is something akin to Florence also, and Florence is much more nearly London than is Rome. On the south there are further surprises, particularly the raising of the pathway or vista down from the south transept. I think that that is a brilliant idea. It increases the length of the steps down to Queen Victoria Street. Then there is another lovely court proposed on the eastern side of that vista. It makes one wish that Sir William had been asked to prepare this plan sooner, before that rather horrid curve of the new north court east of St. Paul's was put in. That is a compelling reason why this plan should be adopted now, before piecemeal additions are made in the neighbourhood not entirely in accordance with one great conception such as this.
I think noble Lords and everyone should realise the difficulty of envisaging a layout such as this from a plan, or even from a model. The model is a wonderful piece of work and, with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, I recommend all noble Lords to see it. But even with a model it is extremely difficult to comprehend the layout. It is often said that a model should be placed at the level of the eyes. That is all right for the 1092 model of one building, or one vista, but it is no good for a model of a layout such as this, because the nearest buildings hide what is behind. I feel that the only way to consider that model is to try and imagine oneself as one of the tiny figures; to reduce oneself to that scale, if one can do it, and put oneself within the courts in imagination. I believe that at the new town at Stevenage, where they prepared a large model of the town centre, they have invented a form of inverted periscope by which one can imagine oneself to be standing inside the courts. I do not know whether such a thing has been produced for this model, but it might be a good idea for those who wish to see exactly what it will look like.
Another point that should be remembered about this plan is that it is a plan of a layout and not a design for individual buildings. The buildings nave not yet been designed. They have to be shown on the plan, but that does not mean to say that they will necessarily look like those blocks and buildings shown in position as they stand in the model. It is only the general layout of courts, walks and roads that is important at this stage, and one should not let the buildings fog the issue. So ma ay people, I feel, may judge the Plan by those buildings, and not as a plan. We all have different views about what type of building should arise round St. Paul's, but I cannot help agreed, strongly with those who say that one of those building—I describe it as a breakfast food carton type of structure—is far too high for its position and will draw the eye away from St. Paul's. I hope it will not be allowed to go up as high as that.
But, discounting buildings, I should like to give the warmest congratulations to Sir William and those who have helped him in preparing this plan. However, one thing would still be lacking, even if this spendid plan were carried out, unless there were a living force within the City to animate it: in other words, some residents. I strongly agree with the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, that it would be a world of pities if all this area were rebuilt without a single habitation therein. I agree that it could not become a residential area, as such; but even a few living spaces would help to solve the traffic problem and avoid this all-day parking, and I know that there are 1093 hundreds of people who would jump at the opportunity of living in the quiet of the City at night. Is it not extraordinary to think that on Easter Sunday morning this year the Cathedral was crowded to the doors, but that among that vast congregation the residents could be counted on the fingers of two hands?
§ 3.55 p.m.
§ LORD CONESFORD
My Lords, like the noble Lord, Lord Mottistone, and the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, I propose to confine myself to the one topic of the precincts of St. Paul's and Sir William Holford's Plan. I strongly support what those noble Lords have said, and I welcome the support given to it by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin. Though the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in initiating the debate, raised many other questions, about some of which I may not perhaps be in agreement with him, I care so much about this particular topic that I shall mention nothing except this matter of St. Paul's.
In commending Sir William Holford's brilliant and imaginative Plan, I suffer what I know is often a grave disadvantage: I care too much about my subject. It concerns two of my greatest loves. 'The first is London, where I have always lived; London, which, in spite of every blunder, is a beautiful and unique city. It is interesting to note that one of the most enlightened books on London is by a foreigner with vision, the Danish architect, Rasmussen, and is called London The Unique City. My other love is architecture, which I believe is the greatest and noblest of the arts. I believe that Sir William Holford has done a splendid service both to London and to architecture, and that, if we are wise enough to adopt his Plan, we can create something worthy of the genius of London, its characteristics and traditions, and worthy of the mighty genius of Wren.
In this view I am supported, I believe, by an immense volume of informed architectural opinion, and many architectural critics have given reasons for this view far better than a mere layman can hope to give. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, mentioned rightly the article by Mr. R. Furneaux Jordan. I would mention another: the brilliant short article that appeared in the New Statesman on March 31 of this year from 1094 the pen of John Summerson. It is impossible to give the reasons why I think Sir William Holford has done so well better than Mr. Summerson has given them. I may perhaps cite two short passages. The first deals with the suggestion, which after deep and careful consideration Sir William rejected— namely, that there should be a formal layout developed on the cathedral axis and so contrived as to throw the cathedral into maximum relief. What is wrong with this conception? I will read this passage from Mr. Summerson's article which I believe to be true. It says:…the construction of a vast, continuous formal layout would mean, in effect, the creation of a new classical work of architecture in close proximity to the cathedral. This new work might be good or it might be bad. If it were strictly classical and good it would be abysmally inappropriate for commercial uses and therefore dead from the start. It would almost certainly have to be loosely classical, which would relegate it at once to the same detestable category as those buildings which Mussolini's architects so unkindly placed at the entry to Bernini's piazza.If there is anybody who bankers after such a conception, f would beg him to study the addition under Mussolini of the would-be majestic approach to the work of Michelangelo and Bernini.
What is the alternative to such a formal approach? Surely, that which Sir William Holford has adopted. Let me quote Mr. Summerson again:So what can be done? One obvious, palpable benefit is to admit more sunlight to the churchyard and allow the Cathedral to be irradiated. Another is to secure certain favourable views, especially of the dome and the towers. So much is obvious. But beyond these there is a grander possibility: that of remodelling the area around St. Paul's in such a way that the chaotic, arbitrary pattern of the city is brought into a local, precinctual harmony. This can be done—without artificiality, without archaism, without quixotic sacrifice. It is the natural and proud tribute of the twentieth century to the seventeenth. And this, it seems to me, is what Sir William Holford has succeeded in doing, with extraordinary technical skill and perfect appreciation of the nature of St. Paul's, both as a work of art and a historic building.One glance at the model shows St. Paul's still rising directly out of commercial London. A second glance shows that here, in the cathedral neighbourhood, a special discipline prevails. Between Newgate Street on the north and Carter Lane on the south all buildings bear a conscious relation to each other and eventually to the cathedral. And there is space—not in one or two sweeping vistas but in a series of related enclosures which surround the cathedral without isolating it.1095 The Holford Plan is lively, vigorous and beautiful. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, suggested (I think it was perhaps not quite what he meant) that it was copied from Venice. I think there are certain points in which Venice may form a precedent, if precedent were needed, but there was no copying.
§ LORD CONESFORD
I am grateful to the noble Lord for the correction. Like the noble Lord I also have benefited greatly when I was in, first, the Ministry of Works and Planning, and then the Ministry of Town and Country Planning, from Sir William Holford's advice. His learning and humanity give him many sources of inspiration. It seems to me that the conception behind this Plan arises naturally from the approach that has given us our greatest civic treasures and that it accords with the English tradition, which is urbane and intimate rather than grandiose and monumental.
When I was thinking this morning of what I should say, I was not then quite certain whether the noble Viscount, Lord Esher, would be speaking. I knew that if he were, it would be unnecessary for me to say much, because I should agree with him. I looked up some papers of many years ago, and I found that nearly fourteen years ago, in October, 1942, when I was a Minister in the Ministry of Works and Planning, I had the honour to address the Central Council of Civic Societies under the chairmanship of my noble friend Lord Esher. I ventured to describe what I thought was the English tradition in these matters, and then, I find, I used these words:We shall be mad if we sacrifice that glorious tradition to the megolomania of the vista-mongers. I am frankly terrified by people who describe themselves as enthusiastic town planners, but whose one idea is to place every important building in the middle of a void. You can immensely overdo the amount of space around a building even if the building is St. Paul's. St. Paul's certainly must not be hemmed in again, but the scale, layout and design of surrounding buildings are as important as new vistas. Not long ago it was seriously suggested that we should 'open up' our cathedrals by destroying our cathedral closes! This appalling suggestion fortunately provoked an intelligent reaction.St. Paul's is, always has been, and should remain, a glorious church surrounded by 1096 the secular buildings of the Capital. Tennyson, I think, was on the right lines when he said near the beginning of the Ode on the Death of the Duke of Wellington:Let the sound of those he wrought for,And the feet of those he fought for,Echo round his bones for evermore.It would not be right, even if the site left it possible, that this glorious church should be too far removed from the intimate connection with vital contemporary buildings taking part in the life of the Capital City. I have no doubt that Her Majesty's Government will consider in due course the views of the City Corporation and of the London County Council: but they will have the duty, too, to bring their own minds to bear upon the Plan. I hope they will not be too much guided by the views of an individual Minister, no matter what his departmental duties. This question, which so vitally concerns the future of London, the setting of one of the greatest works of our greatest archtect, and, I think, our national reputation in reconstruction, deserves the most careful consideration of the Cabinet and of my right honourable friend the Prime Minister, who cares, I know, very much for these things. I believe that a great chance has been given us by Sir William Holford's brilliant Plan. If we miss this chance, we shall incur, and we shall deserve, our children's scorn.
§ 4.9 p.m.
My Lords, we have heard several interesting speeches from highly qualified people in connection with St. Paul's and Sir William Holford's new Plan. All I should like to say about that, as a humble layman, is that I fully agree with every word which has fallen from them. It seems to me to be an excellent Plan, and I hope that it will be carried out one day, though I fear it will be quite a long time before we see these buildings and structures rising. Among other suggestions which the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made in his interesting speech, was one for moving industries out of London, so decreasing the congestion there. It is a worthy hope, but the actual fact is that the opposite is happening. Huge structures are rising in the City of London, higher than any structures that have ever been there before, hiding all Wren's spires and so forth for ever from 1097 the skyline of the City. The congestion is growing ever greater.
The reason I rise this afternoon is to make a plea which has nothing to do with buildings. En fact, it has the opposite object, because, having served for almost all of my working days in the City of London for the last thirty-five years, I am convinced of one thing more than any other; and that is that what the workers in the City of London want, if they can get them, is green open spaces. Goodness knows! there are few enough of them. But wherever they can be found—such as in the churchyard of St. Botolph's, Aldersgate, and St. Botolph's, Bishopsgate—on the seats provided one can see people on every fine clay, often even on a chilly day, but certainly on every day when it is warm. Every seat is full of citizens enjoying their midday hour in the green and sunshine. Therefore, any move to increase the green open spaces in the City has my strong sympathy. For some years, I was Chairman of the Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, and I am still on the Committee. Therefore I have some opportunity of knowing how much work which that Association is able to do, in the way of providing and helping with green open spaces, is appreciated. So, in connection with this debate, which is supposed to be rather specialised on the. City of London, according to the noble Lord who opened it, I should like to draw your Lordships' attention for a few minutes to three specific places in which I think some green open space could be provided.
The first is just behind Gresham Street. Two enormous blocks of offices have just been erected in the lower part of Gresham Street, as one goes towards the Goldsmiths' Hall, and there are two other blocks to be erected on the north side of it in due course; but in the middle are two small churches, St. Alban's, Wood Street, and St. Mary, Aldermanbury, both of which have been almost entirely destroyed by Hitler, with the exception of the tower of St. Alban's, Wood Street. These little churches lie end to end, and there is only a space of about twenty to thirty yards in between the apse of St. Alban's, Wood Street, and the west end churchyard of St. Mary, Aldermanbury. A road used to run between them and there were some little mean houses. All 1098 that has been flattened, and it is now simply a chaotic builders' dump, so used by the contractors who erected these great office buildings.
There is only one notable thing about these two little churches, and that is a monument in one of them, St. Mary, Aldermanbury, to two actors. Follett is the name of one; I forget the name of the other. These actors collected the first folios of Shakespeare's plays, and there is a little monument to that effect. Indeed, if it had not been for the action of those two gentlemen, maybe we should not have had so complete a Shakespeare as we have with us to-day. What I am anxious to do is this. I am told that it is not intended to rebuild St. Alban's, Wood Street, and I want to see that area made into a garden to serve the citizens of these new office building; which are going up all round it. A garden could be made there about a hundred yards long by forty yards broad. I should like to see it called Shakespeare's Garden. The only action that is needed to bring that about is some small purchase of these few mean buildings which I have mentioned and a little planning to do away with the road that used to run between the two churches. That is the first suggestion.
The second one is connected with St. Giles's, Cripplegate. That is the church where Milton was buried; it has a very fine churchyard. That church also was destroyed by Hitler. There was nothing particularly beautiful about the church; it had an ugly Cromwellian tower. Personally, I should not bother at all to rebuild the church, but the churchyard is a very fine garden. Two bastions of the old London Wall abut on to the churchyard, and a fine opportunity exists there to create another garden in that part of the City. In that connection, I would remind your Lordships that Sir William Holford's Plan is not the only one that is under consideration at the present time. There is another most comprehensive model in existence to deal with building on that area of Aldersgate and what is known as the Fore Street area which abuts upon Whitbread's Brewery. So the time will come when all that area is again built over and when a garden in the neighbourhood of St. Giles's, Cripplegate, will be of great value to the citizens living and working in the neighbourhood.
1099 The third place, which is on a bigger scale than either of the two that I have mentioned, is the cemetery of Bunhill Fields, which lies immediately behind Finsbury barracks. I am informed that Finsbury is the most impoverished borough in the Metropolitan Area, from the point of view of green open spaces, which are there almost non-existent, so that anything that can be done to help Finsbury in that respect is of the greatest possible value. Bunhill Fields extends to four and a half acres, so there is something really worth doing. Nobody has been buried in Bunhill Fields since 1856, and only four persons of any note, so far as I know, have ever been buried there. One is the poet Bunyan, who rests on a high sarcophagus which could remain if it were so desired. The statue is not very beautiful, having been disfigured—it has a broken nose which has been mended in a totally different stone from that of the original statue. Another one is Daniel Defoe, of Robinson Crusoe fame; another is the poet Blake; and the fourth is John Wesley's mother. Those are the only people of whom I know of any eminence who are buried in that cemetery. If that cemetery were cleared it would make available four and a half acres, and I think another one and a half acres of blown-up space which has never been built on could be added to it. A most valuable space—a small park, one might call it—might thus be added, at no great cost, to that badly impoverished part of the City of London.
Again, I was associated with Holy Trinity, Brompton. I remember the time, not many years ago, when the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Brompton, was disfigured by a large number of graves. The parochial church council were an enterprising and go-ahead body, and they determined to get rid of these graves. They have done it at surprisingly low cost, and the churchyard of Holy Trinity, Brompton, is now a charming garden with shady trees. It is of the greatest possible benefit to the children of that area and to the people who want to rest, read the paper and so on. The same thing has been done by the authorities of the parish church of Chelsea, in Sydney Street. They, however, have not been at all æsthetic in the way they have set about it; they have simply pushed the gravestones to one side in the churchyard and 1100 asphalted the rest of it. So all there is there is an ugly, asphalted place surrounded by gravestones. It is useful for children to romp about in, much as they do in St. Martin's-in-the-Fields, but it is of no use to grown-up people and is extremely ugly to look at.
I do not wish to detain your Lordships any longer. Those are three practical suggestions which can be carried out, if people will only make up their minds. The Metropolitan Public Gardens Association, I am sure, would be glad to assist, and I am not at all sure that Lord Mottistone's London Society might not also take an interest in it; I should hope, too, to enlist the sympathy of Lord Faringdon's Friends of the City Churches. We want allies of this sort in order to get these things done, and I hope the few words that I have said to your Lordships this afternoon will give a little extra publicity and push to that movement.
§ 4.21 p.m.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, I must begin the few words that I wish to say to your Lordships by confessing that I am not a Londoner. My home and my roots, which can go a considerable way back into the past, derive from a place a great many hundreds of miles away. But as I have had the privilege of working and earning a living in the City of London through the whole of my life, I have come to regard London as a second home and have developed a high degree of reverence and affection for the great cathedral of St. Paul. I have no skill as a town and country planner, and I know little or nothing about art. Consequently, when some great question involving artistic considerations arises, I am apt to be most confused by the opposing views which are expressed by people with claims to expert knowledge from different directions. When I saw that the City of London Plan or rather the Development Plan—there has been great reference to the City of London—was to be debated in your Lordships' House this afternoon, I made a point of coming here in the hope of receiving guidance. I took the precaution of looking at the model in another place, and I must say that I have been amazed and delighted by the tenor of the debate this afternoon.
With great respect to the noble Lord opposite who devoted the earlier part of his remarks to other matters, and to the 1101 noble Lord, Lord Blackford, who made reference to other matters, it is right to say that this debate has been dominated by Sir William Holford's scheme for the development of St. Paul's. It is remarkable that in your Lordships' House there has been complete and absolute unanimity as to the merits of that Plan. I think it is remarkable when I know that there has been opposition in other quarters—I believe that no fewer than forty-five Members of another place have put their names to some sort of dissenting Motion. All I can say is that I think the debate in your Lordships' House must attract attention and be regarded as expressing a high degree of approval for this great scheme. I still regard the preservation of St. Paul's Cathedral through the war as a miracle of survival, and I think that your Lordships will have rendered a great service if this debate makes, as I am sure it will, a real contribution to the further preservation of that great possession in a worthy setting.
§ 4.25 p.m.
§ THE EARL OF LISTOWEL
My Lords, I rise to make only two points, quite briefly, both of which have arisen in the course of this debate. First of al.', I should like to reply to an anat.: ment of my noble relative Lord Glyn relating to the planning authorities for the City of London. The noble Lord complained that there are two authorities for the City —the City itself and the London County Council—and that the result of this duplication is unnecessary delay and some impairment of the prestige of the City which ought to be a master in its own house. He suggested, as an alternative to the present procedure, the setting up of a special joint planning authority with representatives of the London County Council, the City and also the Government. I hope I have put the noble Lord's case correctly. I venture to make one or two observations by way of criticism of this alternative procedure. The first is this. I cannot help thinking that a joint authority of that kind would make the City less a master in its own house than it is at the moment, because it would have to endeavour to get the consent of the representatives of the L.C.C. and of the Government before decisions were taken, whereas at the moment the City Corporation takes its own decisions in the first instance. The City of London Plan 1102 was, of course, drawn up by the City and has been endorsed by the London County Council. That is the Plan that is being implemented.
May I suggest, as probably the most persuasive argument against any change —although an argument of this kind should not come from this side of Tie House—the fact that disagreements and changes are few in number. I myself have served for some two years as a member of the Town Planning Committee of the London County Council. Speaking from my personal experience, I do not remember a single case in which there has been disagreement between the London County Council and the City of London about any major development proposal. I have also consulted my noble friend Lord Silkin, who was chairman of the Town Planning Committee of the London County Council, and I think teat my experience is valid for the past as wall, because in his recollection, too, there has been no instance of any serious friction between the County of London and the City. If this is the case, then surely the City is in fact now in control of its own affairs, and the effect of its relationship with the County is mainly to secure proper co-ordination and harmony between development in the City and development in adjoining areas within the County of London. From that point of view, I think it most desirable for the City to have the views of the London County Council about its proposals, and, of course, vice versa.
There is one other matter to which I should like briefly to refer—namely, the question of relieving congestion in London by the removal of population and industry into country towns. As the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, has pointed out with great force, it is of little value for people to leave London if others are coming into London from outside to take their places. That is exactly what is happening now. The London County Council is pleased when a large firm decides to move its premises out of London into, for example, an expanding country town, this providing, as it is bound to do, opportunities of employment for Londoners—opportunities which must be available before they can be expected to leave the county. But the difficulty—and this is a matter about which I hope the noble Earl will express the view of 1103 the Government in his reply—is that what happens very often is that immediately a factory has been vacated by the firm that is moving out, it is re-occupied by another firm that wants to start up in London with all the advantages of proximity to the London market.
The London County Council cannot prevent this from happening without more assistance from the Government than has been available up till now. This help could be given in two different ways. The Government might allow local planning authorities more statutory control over the user of industrial premises; they might also provide—I think this is probably more practical because it does not involve any legislation or any amending legislation—a more substantial grant towards the purchase of non-conforming industrial premises as soon as they become vacant. It is the practice to-day that when a local authority is doing work of more than local significance it receives a grant of up to 75 per cent. of the cost of the work. Decentralisation of industry, which is a pre-condition for relieving overcrowding in all our great industrial cities, is surely a task of national as well as local importance. I hope, therefore, that Her Majesty's Government will consider the desirability of increasing their financial assistance to local authorities for this purpose, which is a matter of grave concern to the nation as a whole as well as being important from the point of view of the welfare of the inhabitants of our great cities. Unfortunately, one knows from past experience that it is absolutely certain that local authorities cannot afford to buy these vacated premises by agreement with owners at prevailing prices. The situation, therefore, will get even worse unless Her Majesty's Government are prepared to step in.
My last word is to say, as I think your Lordships are already aware, that the London County Council strongly support Sir William Holford's Plan for the development of St. Paul's, and I very much hope that, as the noble Lord, Lord Balfour of Burleigh, has just said, the fact that this Plan has received the unanimous support of all speakers in your Lordships' House during this debate 1104 will make an impression on the minds of Her Majesty's Ministers.
§ 4.34 p.m.
§ LORD STRABOLGI
My Lords, I have listened with great interest to this debate, and I should like to say how much I agree with noble Lords who have preceded me and how impressed I am with the Plan which Sir William Holford has proposed for the surroundings of St. Paul's. My noble friend Lord Mottistone has pointed out that this Plan refers only to the layout and not to the style of the buildings. I hope that when the time comes for these buildings to be designed by individual architects they will be in the style of the present period and not in some eclectic style, such as neo-Georgian, of which, I am afraid, we are seeing far too many buildings in London at present. I am one of those who think that if something is sufficiently good of its own style it will always conform and agree with another thing from another period. If I may use an analogy, a house that has been lived in for several hundred years may contain a collection of furniture from all periods, but if that furniture is good each piece harmonises with the others. I think that the only places where one would see rooms containing furniture all of one period would be in an antique shop or a museum.
The other point which I should like to make is on the question of the London Squares. I have listened with great interest to the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, about the need for increasing the green spaces in the City of London. In the West End of London we already have certain green spaces, although I agree that there are not enough of them; but these small oases of greenery are threatened, and suggestions have been made—mostly, I believe, by people who do not live in London—that underground garages should be built under these Squares in order to increase car-parking facilities and thus ease what is becoming a very pressing problem. I am all in favour of helping motorists to park their cars with greater ease, but I cannot agree that this should be done at the expense of the trees in the Squares. If it were possible to build underground garages without sacrificing the trees, I would say certainly do so; but I do not feel that it is worth sacrificing these beautiful and unique Squares for this purpose.
1105 A gentleman, who, I believe, lives in Kew, wrote a letter to The Times saying that a large multi-tiered garage should be built in the middle of Lincoln's Inn Fields. Those of us who live in London and who are fond of Lincoln's Inn Fields, and those of us who work round there and find it a pleasant oasis of greenery to which we can go in the middle of the day, can view such a suggestion only with great horror. Can one envisage Berkeley Square without its trees? Before the war we destroyed two sides—the east and the south. Now only the west side is left and also the trees. St. James's Square suffered the same fate. These London Squares are unique. They do not exist in any other city in Europe to my knowledge. Paris has its Place de Vosges, where the buildings are very beautiful; but the gardens can in no way compare with the gardens of the London Squares, which I earnestly hope will be preserved.
§ 4.37 p.m.
§ THE MINISTER WITHOUT PORTFOLIO (THE EARL OF MUNSTER)
My Lords, the Development Plan for London, which has been the subject of the noble Lord's Motion this afternoon, received the approval of my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, in March, 1955. When approving the Plan he stated that considerable qualities of judgment and imagination were required in the preparation of the first comprehensive Plan for regulating the use of land in London, and from the discussion we have had to-day I feel certain that every noble Lord, in whatever part of the House he may sit, will wish to add his congratulations to the London County Council and, in particular, to their Town Planning Committee on the production of this very important and, indeed, vital document.
In the course of his observations, the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked me whether there had been any consultation with counties and county boroughs before production to the world of the London Development Plan. I understand that although there is not, and, so far as I am aware, never has been, any statutory responsibility for the bodies to consult together, nevertheless there has been a great deal of informal contact, including meetings of officers which have been convened by the Ministry on almost every aspect of regional planning. So I think 1106 it would be true to say that counties and county boroughs were probably very well acquainted with the proposals in this Development Plan.
This is the first occasion on which your Lordships have debated the broad issues involved in the Plan and it will certainly be of great assistance to my right honourable friend and to the London County Council to hear the very powerful views which have been expressed by many noble Lords this afternoon. The House will remember that my tight honourable friend inserted certain modifications in the Plan —the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, has referred to some of them. The more important were the decrease in the industrial and office areas, the preservation of residential property and the area around St. Paul's Cathedral. All those points have been mentioned this afternoon end I want to deal with them in particular.
There is no doubt whatever that the biggest town planning problem facing us to-day is that of trying to reduce the fearful, and indeed the appalling, congestion in London. Much was said by the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, in introducing his Motion on that particular point, and I should find it very difficult indeed to quarrel with the noble Lord about what he said. Frankly, I do not think there is any rapid solution to that question, but I believe that steady improvement is being made, and I shall endeavour to show your Lordships the direction in which we are going. The importance of dealing with this congestion has long been recognised by successive Governments, and we have all endeavoured to do something to reach the end of this very difficult road. Over £100 million has already been spent in providing new towns in the vicinity of London, and the London County Council have spent over £70 million on housing estates outside their own boundaries since the war. We all know that this congestion has its effects upon the health of those living, working and travelling in the Metropolitan Area, and in their Statement on Planning Policy, the London County Council have said that one of their main aims is the decentralisation of industry and commerce to correspond with the reduction in the population.
How then is that plan developing? As your Lordships know, the eight new towns for London are still in process of 1107 development, and the towns of Swindon and Bletchley are continuing to expand. Up to the end of 1955 some 30,000 persons from the County of London have been rehoused under these schemes. During the same period about five million square feet of factory space, much of it for firms moving out, have also been provided. We, as a Government, are naturally anxious to do all we can to encourage new schemes of town development for London, and the London County Council have been assured that if they negotiate with any town within a radius of, say, roughly sixty miles of London, difficulties are not likely to be raised about the suitability of the area for industrial development. Discussions are, in fact, now proceeding with a number of towns, and my right honourable friend sincerely hopes that some new town development schemes may very soon materialise. Indeed, he has appointed Sir Humphrey Gale, Chairman of the Basildon Development Corporation, to assist in these discussions.
I told the House in the debate we had on housing last February that my right honourable friend is doing everything he can to stop the growth of industrial and office employment in London, and to this end he has reduced the land available in the London Plan. Those of your Lordships who have read his letter to the London County Council will remember that he lopped off some 400 acres which had been allocated for industry and offices, and he also strengthened the Plan to make it abundantly clear that the available industrial land would be reserved primarily for the re-location of wrongly sited industry but could not be used—and this is the reply to the noble Earl, Lord Listowel—for new industry from outside the County or for the expansion of existing industry unless it was tied to London. These measures, which are now being resolutely applied, are designed to restrain the growth of industry.
§ LORD BALFOUR OF BURLEIGH
My Lords, will the noble Earl forgive me? I apologise for interrupting him, but I should be glad of some reassurance, if he could give it (I recognise that it may not be a fair question to put to him to-day), as to whether the policy of the Board of Trade is definitely aligned, as 1108 it ought to be, with that of the Minister of Housing and Local Government in regard to the question of industry and congestion in London.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I should certainly hope that it is, but I am afraid that, before I could give a detailed reply on that question, I should have to ask the noble Lord to give me notice of it. I think the House will readily agree that no better restriction could be found than to limit the land available and to lay down a policy for the strict control of all the land that remains available.
There is another way of lessening congestion in London, and that is for the local authority to purchase factory premises which have been vacated by firms moving out of London. The County Council, with the full support and approval of my right honourable friend, decided to buy up this kind of property, and for this purpose they set aside sums of £250,000 in 1955 and £500,000 in 1956. Her Majesty's Government have only very recently increased from 20 per cent. to 50 per cent. the grant which they make to the County Council in respect of the loss on such transactions. I am bound to admit that I do not think that at the present time there is much likelihood of Her Majesty's Government being able to give larger grants than those already given.
I was anxious if I could, to obtain some figures to give the House to show how much of this factory property is, in fact, being bought up. I understand that the London County Council have so far bought one factory, and that the purchase of three others is in an advanced stage of negotiation. These four will involve expenditure totalling an estimated £135,000 and cover a floor space of 70,000 square feet. Negotiations are in progress relating to a further eight factories, estimated to cost some £640,000 and covering some 240,000 square feet of floor space. So your Lordships will observe that expenditure amounts to something under £1,000,000 and covers a floor space of some 310,000 square feet. That is for the purchase of factories which have been vacated in the County Council area by firms moving out of London.
All this, of course, is in addition to factories of one kind and another which 1109 will have to be bought up in the course of my right honourable friend's scheme. For example, in the process of demolishing the 19,000 unfit houses which have been included in the first five years of the County Council's proposals for slum clearance, the County Council and the metropolitan boroughs will buy industrial and commercial buildings where they are so intermingled with the houses that their demolition will be necessary in order to provide a reasonable area for redevelopment. I believe that all these activities, though they may not sound much, show progress in the right direction. They are also having a good effect, for the population of the County of London, I have been informed, declined by 19,000 in 1953: again by the same number in 1954, and by 27,000 last year.
My right honourable friend has recently said that office accommodation in the centre of London is the greatest single cause of congestion, and the noble Lord, Lord Silkin, made a large point of the congestion problem which is facing us to-day. Figures which have now become available show that while the population of the County is decreasing, employment within the County is on the increase. The problem tends to become more acute all the time, and the additional office accommodation under construction or about: to be built will give employment to a further 70,000 office workers in the City alone. I am informed that there is every reason to believe that the figures will prove just as alarming in the rest of the central area. The time has surely now arrived when we should persuade commercial firms to follow the lead of industry and move their offices outside the central area.
I should like to quote from a speech delivered by my right honourable friend at a meeting of the Town Planning Institute this year. He said:Industry is not the main cause of congestion in London. It is primarily due to the enormous movement of office workers, which in turn is due to the fact that so many offices are concentrated in a comparatively small central area. Moreover, we must recognise that this problem is getting more acute all the time. In the City of London, six million more square feet of office space are now under construction, and planning permission far a further four million square feet has already been granted. These additional ten million square feet will accommodate nearly 70.000 more office workers. That is in the City alone. 1110 The London County Council recently carried out a survey of the rest of central London, and the indications are that the figures there will prove equally alarming.
My Lords, large blocks of offices form an integral part of the Holford Plan. Could the noble Earl say how many office workers it is calculated will inhabit these offices?
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
My Lords, I am sorry that I cannot give the noble Viscount the details of the Holford Plan that he wants. The noble Lord, Lord Silkin, asked if the Government would give him a lead about office accommodation. The Government have given a lead. For example, some 7,000 officials of the Ministry of National Insurance are now, working in Newcastle, some 3,000 of the staff of the Ministry of Pensions are in Blackpool, and 4,000 of the Admiralty staff are in Bath. There is a programme now in course of development to move out a further 14,000.
§ THE EARL OF MUNSTER
I cannot give the noble Lord details at the moment, but another 14,000 are moving out quite shortly. The moving of offices on a substantial scale would undoubtedly remove some of the difficulties of travelling and it would certainly save a good deal of strain on health and temper as well.
Since the war, the spread of offices into residential districts has proceeded apace. Mayfair is a case in point, and Mayfair is the case mentioned by the noble Lord in his remarks. My right honourable friend feels that it is wrong for traditionally residential areas to be turned into commercial centres, and in his letter of March last year to the London County Council he said:In particular, I have inserted a general provision that planning permission should not normally be given, in any zone, to change the use of residential property which is still capable of being used for housing purposes.The noble Lord also suggested that some areas which were designated for building by my right honourable friend were not agreeable to the London County Council. I understand that this matter goes back a long time, indeed to the time when the present Chancellor of the Exchequer was Minister of Housing. On all these re-allocations my right honourable friend consulted the London County 1111 Council. Many of the areas were already mainly residential and some were vacant land. I understand that the London County Council agreed in the majority of cases and disagreed in a few, but the Minister considered their objections before he decided to modify the plan.
The Development Plan provides that so long as these houses last and adaptation is possible, they must be preserved for residential use, either as flats or private houses. If the houses should be demolished, the new buildings must be for residential purposes and not for office accommodation. Meanwhile, a number of temporary permissions has been granted for the use of large old houses as offices, but the Plan provides that they will revert to residential use on the expiry of the present term of the permission, which will not be extended except in very special circumstances. The Minister expects that cases in which extensions are granted will be quite exceptional and that they will be granted only on production of convincing evidence that reversion to residential use is out of the question.
In the majority of cases the responsibility rests upon the local planning authority, but cases can and do come before my right honourable friend for his decision. They may come before him on appeal. Eight cases in Mayfair have been considered since the Plan was approved and my right honourable friend has supported the Council's refusal of permission. Where a proposal would take a house out of residential use, the metropolitan borough council, as housing authority, are consulted by the London County Council. If the two authorities disagree, a statutory reference to the Minister for decision is provided. Three such cases affecting houses in Mayfair have come before the Minister since the Plan was approved. He has refused permission in two cases and granted short-period permission in the third. It has always been recognised that proposals which involve material departures from the Development Plan require special care. Therefore provision is made for these cases to be referred for the Minister's consideration. I think the reason is obvious: the public and interested third parties are entitled to expect that the published Plan will be 1112 respected, and so the Minister is given a chance to consider the proposals which involve departures. The only cases in Mayfair in which the Minister has taken the decision out of the hands of the County Council have been cases referred to him in this way. There have been in all four such cases in which my right honourable friend has refused permission while the London County Council were willing to grant it.
Various questions have been put to me in the course of the debate. My noble friend Lord Glyn asked why Addison Road was not made into a main line terminal. The answer is that it is a matter entirely for the British Transport Commission, and in their Plan the London County Council have not endeavoured to provide in any way for the development of the railways. He and another noble Lord asked why bombed sites in the City were not retained for car parks. I think the answer must be obvious: in practically every single case the vacant properties are far too expensive to buy for that purpose. My noble friend and the noble Earl, Lord Listowel, referred to the question of planning permission in the City. There is a right of appeal to the Minister against failure to give permission within a period of two months. I am told that there is day-to-day liaison at office level and that officers of the two authorities, the London County Council and the City Corporation, consider applications together and agree the terms of recommendation to their respective committees. The machinery is probably as good as anyone can devise; nevertheless, there is no reason why it should not be looked at again. I understand that the delays which do arise are due to different and complicated issues which are usually caused by large industrial buildings on prominent sites. In many of these cases consultation with the Royal Fine Art Commission has to take place also.
I should like here to answer the noble Lord, Lord Blackford, who raised the question of open spaces in the City of London. He certainly made some interesting suggestions and I have no doubt that the City Corporation will consider them with the respect that is due to any observation made by my noble friend. In addition, I will certainly refer his speech to my right honourable friend the Minister.
1113 The one question which has aroused much comment from all noble Lords who have spoken this afternoon is the redevelopment of the area around St. Paul's Cathedral. It will be remembered that my right honourable friend said in his letter to the London County Council that he could not help feeling that a unique opportunity to provide a truly worthy setting for Wren's masterpiece was being missed, and he accordingly modified the Plan to give a chance for further consideration of the planning of this area. In April of last year the City Corporation, with the full agreement of the London County Council, as planning authority, and of my right honourable friend, appointed Sir William Holford to prepare a report on the area round the Cathedral. That report has been published, and many of your Lordships will have seen, also, the exhibit which is now on display in the Palace of Westminster. My right honourable friend is just as anxious as anyone else that progress should be made in replanning this area, and as he is now discussing the whole question with representatives of the City and the London County Council, I do not feel that I can really make any comment to-day. However, I can assure noble Lords, if indeed it is necessary, that I will draw the attention of my right honourable friend to the observations which they have so forcibly expressed this afternoon.
Perhaps I might say this, in conclusion. I feel that this debate to-day has signified that your Lordships, on the whole, approve the London Development Plan, which will gradually come into being in future years. I disagree strongly with my noble friend Lord Esher: I believe that this debate has been neither fruitless nor destructive; in fact, I think it has been extremely useful. As my right honourable friend said in his letter to the London County Council—and this is the object of each one of us, wherever we may sit:The preparation and adoption of this comprehensive design for the world's greatest City is a significant event which in years to come will be accorded a notable place in the pages of London's history.
§ 5.4 p.m.
§ LORD SILKIN
My Lords, the debate which I initiated has been really in two parts. The first concerned the County of London Plan as a whole, and of that Plan I raised certain criticisms. The noble Earl, Lord Munster, will not be surprised if I tell him that I am rot entirely satisfied with his reply. I am sure that he has quite faithfully transmitted to the House the information which was given to him by his right honourable friend, and my criticism of the reply is not directed to the noble Earl—he is always most gracious and carries out his instructions in the most agreeable manner. But, with all respect to him, I do not think he was fully briefed on some of the points that I made. All I can hope is that his right honourable friend will read my views and take them into consideration.
On the question of the layout of the precincts of St. Paul's, I am bound to say that, in all my experience in this House, I have never known such unanimity. Every single speaker, without exception, has expressed strong approval—and I put it mildly—of the Holford Plan. I hope that that remarkable expression of agreement will carry some weight with the Minister. I do not know whether it will or not I hear rumours that the Minister himself does not like the Holford Plan and is seeking other views. However, the views of this House on questions of this kind are of great significance, and I hope that as a result of this debate the authorities will go forward very soon and come to some agreement about what is to be done with St. Paul's. My sincere belief is that the longer we wait, the more difficult it will be to carry out any scheme at all, because events will take control. I hope, therefore, that we shall have some decision in the near future. My Lords, I beg leave to withdraw my Motion.
§ Motion for Papers, by leave, withdrawn.
§ House adjourned at six minutes past five o'clock.