HL Deb 20 January 1976 vol 367 cc351-2

2.54 p.m.

Baroness YOUNG

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 what is their policy concerning the preservation of street furniture in conservation areas.


My Lords, local authorities are in the first instance responsible for conservation areas. Street furniture like other environmental artifacts can be statutorily listed as of special architectural or historic interest, and in an outstanding conservation area is eligible for grant aid for repair.

Baroness YOUNG

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that reply. But would she not consider issuing a circular on the subject of all street furniture in conservation areas, as prevailing opinion has moved away from the listing of individual buildings to looking at an area as a whole, of which street lamps, street signs and all types of street furniture are usually an integral part?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, at present I would not entirely agree with the noble Baroness. In a conservation area everything, even those items which are not listed, has to be looked at before any development can take place. Where either the artifact or the building is considered to be of sufficient architectural value to be listed, it is listed. But in many of the cases it is up to the local authority. Certainly the local authority must take this into account with everything else. There is a point beyond which the Government cannot go on giving out more and more directions on various matters.


My Lords, is the noble Baroness aware of the extraordinary secondhand value of old Victorian lanterns which were used for street lighting? There is a terrific demand for these. They are being sold at very high prices, such as £40 to £50 each. I can see that there is a temptation on the part of local authorities, who are replacing these lights with modern, hideous floodlighting, to forget the fact that what they are getting rid of has a considerable commercial value.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, that is a matter which it is up to the local authority to deal with. As a Government, we are concerned with the actual architectural and historic value of the particular objects.


My Lords, would the noble Baroness tell me what, apart from street lamps, comprises street furniture?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, all sorts of things do, such as seats, old letter boxes, and almost anything which is contained in the phrase "environmental artifacts".


My Lords, would the noble Baroness not agree that this street furniture, such as horse troughs and those charming Victorian canopy letter boxes, is equally important in non-conservation areas where there is, on the whole, not very much worth looking at? Would the noble Baroness not further agree that these items ought not to be removed in the interests of improving the traffic control or of modernisation without very great regard being had for their historic and architectural interest in the somewhat dull situations in which they may happen to find themselves?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, that is exactly what we do take into account. But I must stress that the criteria centrally is that which is recommended by the Historic Buildings Council, and when our investigators decide that a building does not come up to that criteria then it is up to the local authority to decide, and for local residents to make their voices heard by the local authority.