HL Deb 10 December 1986 vol 482 cc1145-7

2.45 p.m.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

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

The Question was as follows:

To ask Her Majesty's Government whether they will encourage greater provision of pedestrian precincts in the centres of towns and cities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of Transport (Lord Brabazon of Tara)

My Lords, given the growth in numbers and scale of pedestrian zones throughout the country, the Government believe such encouragement is unnecessary. My right honourable friend the Secretary of State for Transport is currently consulting interested organisations on revised advice to local authorities on the administrative and legal aspects of introducing pedestrian zones. A copy of this draft advice, Pedestrian Zones—Getting the Right Balance, is available in the Library.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I am grateful to the Minister for that reply. However, is this country not a little behind some other civilised countries which have pedestrian precincts at the centres of all towns and cities, and is not the provision of these precincts both in the interests of the native citizen and the visiting tourist? Do they not do something to bring back the significance of the centres of our towns and cities? Further, is it not time that London gave a lead in this matter? After all, at the Royal Academy, as the Minister will be aware, Mr. Rogers has an exhibition showing that Trafalgar Square is the centre of London and should be the object of a precinct. Should not the centre of London be Parliament Square, although at present visitors have to jump for their lives if they wish to see Big Ben, the Palace of Westminster and the Abbey?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I shall not be drawn into an argument about where the centre of London should be. What the new note issued by the department tries to point out is that one needs to strike a balance so as to achieve good access to town centres. It emphasises the need for full and early consultation with interested organisations, particularly with groups representing mobility-handicapped people, and it advises on the consideration of vehicle exemptions, including orange badge holders, loading and unloading and security carriers.

Lord Northfield

My Lords, may I refer to something that the noble Lord, Lord Henderson, said? Has the Minister seen the example set by Mr. Richard Rogers in his exhibition in London, showing how Trafalgar Square, perhaps for the first time, could be linked by pedestrian routes to the south side of the river, so that the emerging cultural heart of London is linked back to the old centre? There will be no chance of this great initiative getting off the ground unless the Government begin to take an interest in it. Will the noble Lord have a look at that scheme and encourage his friends in the Government also to look at it with a view to some government action being taken?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I have not seen the scheme to which the noble Lord refers. I shall of course have a look at it and then decide what to do.

Lord Maude of Stratford-upon-Avon

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that, while pedestrian precincts are an excellent idea in themselves, in country towns, where shoppers may come in from villages 10 or 20 miles away, the need for on-street parking is very great and if parking space is to be taken away to make pedestrian precincts, the provision of other parking facilities is essential?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Yes, my Lords. My noble friend is quite right and that is one of the points which the draft note from the department emphasises. A balance should be struck between good access to town centres and the need to have pedestrian precincts.

Baroness Macleod of Borve

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his remarks about the disabled, the elderly and all the other people who cannot walk very far and therefore cannot take advantage of these pedestrian precincts. Is he aware that they are having great trouble in some of our inner cities at this time? I am glad to hear that he is bearing them in mind, and perhaps he will let me know how much further the matter can be taken.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

Certainly, my Lords. The draft note is in the consultation period at present and we hope to publish the results in the spring.

Viscount Ingleby

My Lords, following the remarks of the noble Baroness, is the Minister aware—indeed, I am sure he is—that pedestrianisation schemes can become "no go" areas for disabled people unless adequate car parking spaces, which are sufficiently near, are reserved for them?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, the noble Viscount is quite correct and that is why a balance needs to be struck.

Lord Henderson of Brompton

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Government for their consideration of the needs of the disabled and the elderly to have access to these spaces, but will the noble Lord give some thought to the remark of the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, that no progress will ever be made in the promotion of precincts for pedestrians in London unless the Government take a lead?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I have said that I shall take note of what the noble Lord, Lord Northfield, said and I look forward to having a look at this scheme.