HL Deb 10 March 1977 vol 380 cc1157-9

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, in view of the historic interest of existing buildings at Free Trade Wharf, Wapping, and their possible adaptation in partnership with private enterprise to residential use in a unique riverside setting, they will seek to delay demolition and redevelopment as a site for a London polytechnic.


My Lords, a proposal for using the site for the City of London Polytechnic is currently being considered by the local planning authority. This might be referred to my right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment as a substantial departure from the Initial Development Plan for Greater London, and therefore it would not be appropriate for me to comment now. Free Trade Wharf is a listed building and could be demolished only if listed building consent is granted. No application for consent has been made.


My Lords, I am delighted to hear that my noble friend's right honourable friend will have in the end to give permission for any demolition of these buildings. Is my noble friend aware that, although I have no interests to declare, I know of people, including architects, who are increasingly concerned at any prospect of demolition of these buildings which in other parts of the front-age to the river in the East End of London are being successfully converted into living accommodation with great glory and in the traditions of the buildings? Will she perhaps take the opportunity to visit the area to look at some of the buildings and at some of the good examples of conversion?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, there is nothing to stop planning application for residential use being submitted. I intend to take the apportunity before long to see others of the many listed buildings in dockland. I have already seen some of them.


My Lords, does the noble Baroness realise that all the London polytechnics are now being driven into the ground as a result of the Department of Education and Science's perhaps perfectly proper economy programme, with regard to the intake of foreign students, the closure of teacher training establishments and in other ways? Is this really a time to consider new buildings when the buildings which exist are being faced with closure?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, this is not what I was being asked. I was asked about a specific site for which a planning application has been submitted on behalf of the polytechnic. What I am saying is that that planning application will take its course.


My Lords, while supporting my noble friend Lord Northfield in his wish to ensure that historic buildings are protected and to ensure that the considerable residential potential of this area is developed, may I ask whether my noble friend can say if part, at least, of the case for this polytechnic is made in order to meet the very great employment and development needs of the area? If that is so, can she say whether an alternative site has been considered?—because this is certainly a part of London which is not lacking in derelict sites.

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, I agree on the question of employment. In any case, whatever use is found for the site in the future, I think it would certainly involve employment in the area. So far as consideration of other sites is concerned, I cannot answer that. The idea was to join together in one site—and there are 5½ acres at Wapping—dispersed elements of the present City of London Polytechnic. All these points will be taken into account. As I have said, a planning application has been submitted which is complicated by the fact that this is a departure from the Initial Development Plan. It is quite a complicated business.


My Lords, subject to good planning and architectural principles, would the noble Baroness agree that among the points to take into consideration is the fact that private enterprise development is greatly preferable to that of public enterprise, which, in the end, merely falls directly on to the public sector borrowing requirement?

Baroness BIRK

My Lords, so far no plans for this development have been put forward by private enterprise. The only planning application has been on behalf of ILEA for the City of London Polytechnic.


My Lords, would my noble friend convey to her right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Education and Science the desirability of finding an adequate site for the polytechnic? Would she not agree that the Free Trade Wharf site is rather small for development as a polytechnic?

Baroness BIRK

I am sorry, my Lords; I cannot comment on that.

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