HL Deb 07 May 1959 vol 216 cc207-9

3.5 p.m.


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

[The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they have studied the important statement on the new motorways issued by the Royal Fine Art Commission on the 15th April, 1959, and whether they can now inform the House what steps they are taking to meet their criticisms and to give effect to their recommendations in this matter.]

LORD CONESFORD had also given Notice of his intention:

[To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they recognise the crucial importance of obtaining architectural advice at the earliest stage on the location as well as the design of urban motorways, and whether they have any statement to make in the light of the warning and advice recently given by both the Royal Fine Art Commission and the Royal Institute of British Architects.]


My Lords, with the leave of your Lordships and with the consent of my noble friend, Lord Conesford, which I have already received, I should like to answer these two Questions together, as they really are interrelated points. Her Majesty's Government fully recognise the importance of the considerations to which the Commission have drawn attention. For the national motorways, since 1956, my right honourable friend the Minister of Transport and Civil Aviation has had the benefit of the expert advice of the Advisory Committee on the Landscape Treatment of Trunk Roads, whom he consults at all appropriate stages. He would most certainly give very careful consideration to any recommendation which this Committee might make to him concerning the planning of motorway projects. Some schemes put in hand in the early years of the road programme were, however, already too far advanced for major alterations to be possible.

As regards the planning of urban motorways, Lord Conesford's point, the Committee on London Roads, which was set up in 1957 and in which my right honourable friend has a direct interest, has throughout included architects and town planners in its membership. The study groups which are proposed for the other large urban areas are not responsible to my right honourable friend; nevertheless, he has written to the Chairmen of the two Committees so far set up, stressing the value he attaches to drawing on the best professional advice at a very early stage in their work.


My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his full reply, and I am glad to note that the Government attach importance to aspects other than the engineering aspects of the new motorways. Just as the Roman roads are with us to-day, so these great new roads may be with our successors 1,000 years hence. With this in mind, can my noble friend assure us, first, that the advice of the Advisory Committee to which he referred will in all cases in future be sought at a very early stage in the planning of these new roads; and, secondly, that permanent professional advice will be enlisted from the outset at the planning, the reconnaissance stage, in order to ensure that these great new roads blend as harmoniously as possible with the landscape through which they pass?


My Lords, I can assure the noble Earl that my right honourable friend does indeed place the greatest importance on that professional advice, but I must draw your Lordships' attention to the fact that such professional advice is not applicable in every case. There are many cases where it is not possible.


My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the building of these motorways is the most important event in shaping the character of town and country since the coming of the railways, and that according to their design and location they can either save our towns or ruin them irretrievably? Will Her Majesty's Government ensure that architects are associated with the engineers from the very beginning, before the line of the road is settled, in order that these roads may be an object of national pride and that those responsible may not be classed among the great vandals of history?


My Lords, I can assure the noble Lord that my right honourable friend is fully aware of all the points which the noble Lord makes.

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