HL Deb 17 May 1988 vol 497 cc254-7

7.30 p.m.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I beg to move that this Bill be now read a third time. I have studied the plans of this most imaginative project and I think it is an outstanding example of the way that Britain and her imaginative building companies, planners and others can come together for a project which is perhaps too often seen in France, and elsewhere, but not seen enough in this country.

The plan has the entire support of the East Sussex County Council and of Eastbourne Borough Council. It is a large and imaginative plan. I am told that at the peak it will employ some 4,000 extra people. On all those scores I trust it will have the support of the House. I beg to move.

Moved, That the Bill be now read a third time.—(Lord Orr-Ewing.)

Lord Teviot

My Lords, I am most grateful to my noble friend Lord Orr-Ewing for introducing this Bill. I am grateful to him personally for the discussions we have had, but I am afraid I still have some fears as to the outcome of the proposals.

First and foremost I must clearly state that I am not opposed in any way to the building of the marina. I am sure that it could enhance the area and bring benefit to the town of Eastbourne and some of its inhabitants and the surrounding areas, as well as being a benefit to the sailing fraternity.

I must make it quite clear, talking about the town of Eastbourne, that noble Lords might think Eastbourne a place to retire to with rather pleasant buildings of one sort or another. But from a local historian's point of view it is an ancient fishing port which people remember. Where we are thinking of building is in an area known as the Crumbles, which is an area of special scientific interest on the Pevensey marshes.

Having said all these rather pleasant things, there is a very big "but". We have some concern as to the cost which could arise to the ratepayers not only now or in a few years' time, but for ever. The expertise of Tarmac Construction, who might or might not be the owners at the moment, might not be able to stem the drift of shingle eastwards, caused by the construction of this marina, now or in future decades. We have two examples where erosion to the eastern shore, not very far from Eastbourne, has occurred. The first was the building of Shoreham Harbour, which was contemplated in 1816 when curiously enough a trust fund was set up. The building of the harbour produced erosion of the beaches of Hove and Brighton. I put them in that order because we go from west to east. More recently, work done on Newhaven Harbour has involved the Southern Water Authority in great expense in maintaining the beaches at Seaford. Erosion, I am afraid, will be inevitable.

I am asking that a bond be provided by the owners, whoever they may be, either the Chatsworth Estates or Tarmac Construction. I should make it absolutely clear that this goes back to even before the proposals for any planning permission to be granted, in 1974—and, as my noble friend has said, the Eastbourne Borough Council have now agreed. The only reason why they were given planning permission was that they would look after the situation afterwards. An agreement was entered into, and one cannot escape that fact.

I am asking for a positive assurance that whatever agreement is reached between the Southern Water Authority and the past, present and future owners of the Eastbourne Harbour Company, it will be properly funded and able to fulfil its legal obligations under the agreement to maintain the beaches north-east of the harbour for all time. If a positive assurance is not given, the Council for the Preservation of Rural England, of which I was a council member at one time—and they are very keen on this—may have to petition. It might not be Eastbourne, but it is comparatively east for the purposes of whatever is proposed. I am looking forward to hearing my noble friend's reply, giving me those splendid assurances.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I intervene only briefly because there was perhaps a question about some of us on the Swanage Yacht Haven Bill voting on a totally non-party basis. I wish to make it quite clear that we on these Benches are not opposed to marinas. The proposal for Eastbourne is something which we wish to support because the safeguards have been built into the situation, regardless of what the noble Lord, Lord Teviot, says, either by Tarmac or the Water Authority.

I am quite sure that at the end of the day this will be a project which will enhance the viability of Eastbourne as a place for leisure and recreation. If noble Lords look at the plan for this new marina they will see that it takes over an area of fairly derelict land. With the best will in the world, it is a gravel pit which is past its best.

Lord Teviot

My Lords, will the noble Lord give way? I think it might be a gravel pit now, but whatever it is it was a place, within living memory, where people could go and seek recreation and enjoy themselves. It is not an entirely derelict parcel of land.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, I understand what the noble Lord is saying but I believe that this is an opportunity to restore it to being an area of recreation. I wish I could afford the kind of boat that people will put there. Nevertheless, it will be an area of recreation and better than it is at the moment. I believe that this is a good project and one which has our support.

Lord Orr-Ewing

My Lords, I am most grateful to noble Lords who have taken part in this debate. I understand the anxiety of my noble friend Lord Teviot in this matter. I have made available to him a copy of a very important letter which the chief executive of Tarmac wrote to the chief executive of the council, because that council had some anxiety that at some time in the future a littoral drift might be troublesome. One has to remind oneself that Tarmac is a very substantial and hightly successful company. In all the projects which it has undertaken it has done outstandingly well.

I can now announce that a further agreement has been made, in case there is any incipient anxiety, even after that comfort letter. Tarmac and Southern Water have reached an agreement in which the costs of managing any littoral drift problems will be met by a bond or a trust fund which will have a value of at least £2 million.

I hope that in view both of Tarmac's assurances and this joint fund or bond my noble friend will feel that the Bill should now have the recommendation of this House and proceed to another place. Therefore, I trust your Lordships will agree that this Bill be now read a third time.

On Question, Bill read a third time, and passed, and sent to the Commons.