HL Deb 13 January 1988 vol 491 cc1233-4

3 p.m.

Viscount Buckmaster

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 Section 56(3) of the Town and Country Planning Act 1971 as amended by the Local Government, Planning and Land Act 1980, which gives them responsibilities for sites surrounding listed buildings, is adequate for controlling the proposed developments near St. Paul's Cathedral and other national and historic monuments.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (The Earl of Caithness)

My Lords, yes. Section 56(3) requires local planning authorities, or indeed the Secretary of State, to pay special regard to the desirability of preserving a listed building or its setting when considering proposals for development which would affect either.

Viscount Buckmaster

My Lords, in thanking the noble Earl for that Answer, perhaps I may take the opportunity of congratulating him on his new appointment. As one of the Friends of St. Paul's who has been inspired by this superb building over the past 50 years, I should like to ask the Minister whether he is aware that the misgivings about the proposed developments expressed recently by his Royal Highness the Prince of Wales are widely shared throughout this country. Is he further aware that many overseas visitors to London, and particularly those coming from France and Italy, are also seriously disturbed by these proposals. Their Governments would never permit similar buildings in the vicinity of St. Peter's in Rome or Notre Dame.

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I am grateful to the noble Viscount for his kind words. Yes, I am aware that concern has been expressed about development around listed buildings. Of course no such proposal has come forward. In view of my right honourable friend's quasi-judicial function perhaps it would be wrong for me to comment any further at this stage, as I am sure the House will understand.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, I should like to join the noble Viscount in offering from these Benches congratulations to the noble Earl. Can he say whether the plans for the site adjacent to St. Paul's have been considered by the Royal Fine Art Commission?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, I may be corrected but at the moment I understand that there has been no planning application. When such a planning application goes before the City planning authority, at that stage the Royal Fine Art Commission comes in. The developers may have given the plans to that authority without my knowing about it of course.

Lord Elwyn-Jones

My Lords, have not the developments which have already been taking place at the site of St. Paul's Cathedral been quite unworthy of the cathedral itself in view of its ecclesiastical, architectural and cultural importance? If the powers are deemed adequate to produce a better result, who was responsible for the failure to exercise them?

The Earl of Caithness

My Lords, of course there was a major change in 1980. Before that time legislation to control development was used by governments of both shades of political opinion as and when it proved necessary. However, in 1980 the word "setting" was introduced, which allows buildings adjacent to listed buildings which might have an effect on that listed building to be taken into consideration.