HL Deb 13 June 1967 vol 283 cc805-7

2.45 p.m.


My Lords, I beg leave 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 will stop planning permission being given for the develop-men of flats and a marina at Little Venice, Paddington, which would destroy public open space of a unique character and the only place where a large boat display can take place afloat in inner London.]


My Lords, I quite agree, and I am sure that many in this House will agree, that the area to which the noble Viscount refers is both unique and attractive; and, of course, whatever happens in the future, the water will still be there for boats to be displayed. Apart from that, an application on behalf of the British Waterways Board to construct a pier, marina and boathouse at what is known as Little Venice, Paddington, with a number of flats and houses over the water, is being considered by Westminster City Council, the local planning authority. If they decide that they wish to grant permission, they must consult both the Greater London Council and my right honourable friend the Minister of Housing and Local Government, as the proposal involves a substantial departure from the development plan.


My Lords, I am sure that the local planning authority must consult Her Majesty's Government, but will Her Majesty's Government take particular care in this particular case?—because, although it is true that the water will remain there (no one is in the slightest doubt about that), the purpose of the water will in fact cease if this development is carried out. Also, this block of flats comes right in the middle of a large public open space of unique character. Will Her Majesty's Government take that also into consideration? I do not think that anybody is querying that the water will remain there.


My Lords, I agree with what the noble Viscount says in this matter. I would point out, however, that so far as I am informed there will still be provision for boats to be on the water. But I am passing no judgment on the matter one way or the other. It will be for the Minister ultimately to decide. If Westminster City Council wish to grant permission, the application will be referred to the Minister before they can do so. If they decide to refuse permission, the applicants may appeal to the Minister direct.


My Lords, the noble Lord mentioned that there must be consultation before anything is done. Does he not think it desirable that the national waterways authority should be represented at least before any decision is reached?


My Lords, I am not quite sure what is meant by "the national waterways authority?" There is a British Waterways Board, but they are involved in the proceedings and are naturally fully acquainted with the whole situation.


My Lords, can a condition of planning permission be that the Royal Fine Art Commission are consulted in the event of these flats being built?


My Lords, that is certainly a commendable idea, and I will see that it is passed to the Minister; and I hope that the mere fact that the noble Duke has asked that question, and I have commented on it, will draw the matter to the attention of the Westminster City Council.


My Lords, will the Government also take into account, apart from the importance of the water, the importance of the whole area, and indeed the precincts surrounding the water, since this beautiful and unique part of London has remained virtually unchanged since Verlaine wrote one of his beautiful poems about it nearly one hundred years ago?


My Lords, knowing this area fairly well, and passing through it many times every year, I would beg to differ somewhat from the opinion of the noble Lord, because in fact new buildings have been constructed on one side of the waterway in place of the rather derelict buildings which were there beforehand. But, again, I assure the noble Lord, and indeed all who are interested in the matter, that this is an amenity that should be preserved, and I hope very much indeed that the various remarks made this afternoon will be taken very carefully into consideration by all those involved in this project.