HL Deb 23 February 1989 vol 504 cc756-8

3.17 p.m.

Baroness Strange asked Her Majesty's Government:

How far listed building legislation is applicable to property owned by British Rail.

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

My Lords, I understand that property owned by British Rail is fully covered by the listed building legislation.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for his courteous and brief reply. Is he aware that at Errol station in Scotland, British Rail propose to demolish the station platforms and the footbridge, which had been listed since 1971? Is he further aware that that will destroy the whole charming character of Errol station, which is currently being made into a railway museum by a group of railway enthusiasts, and will leave it looking like a stranded dolphin on a tip?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am grateful to my noble friend for having informed me of the particular station which she had in mind. It is a listed building and any question of alteration to it will be at first for British Rail to sort out with the local planning authority.

Lord Underhill

My Lords, is the Minster able to give information to the House as to the number of listed buildings affected belonging to British Rail? Can he also indicate whether there is a possibility of any major or important projects of British Rail that will be affected in this way?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I can answer the first part of the noble Lord's question in that British Rail currently have around 900 listed buildings, which I believe makes them one of the largest single owners of listed buildings in the country. I cannot say whether there are any particularly large projects in hand which affect any other listed buildings at the moment, but if there were, they would have to go through the normal procedure applicable to listed building legislation.

Baroness Ewart-Biggs

My Lords, what is the purpose of listing a building if British Rail can demolish it?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I have said that British Rail have to go through the proper planning procedures if they want to demolish the building. That involves going to the local planning authority, in the same way as any other owner of a listed building would have to do for such proposals.

Lord St.John of Fawsley

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that many noble Lords, including myself, whose connections with Scotland are tenuous, strongly support the crusade of my noble friend Lady Strange in her efforts to secure this delightful station? Since my noble friend has stated that British Rail are one of the biggest owners of listed buildings in the country, is he prepared to use his good offices to ensure that when British Rail dispose of a listed building they make sure that it is incorporated into a development which is worthy and appropriate for the building concerned?

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, that is a matter for British Rail. In this case I understand that the station itself is being sold to the people whom my noble friend Lady Strange and others support. It is the platform and the footbridge which are in question at the moment. British Rail want to make the alterations because there is a drainage problem between the tracks. British Rail have a genuine reason for wanting to carry out that work, and not just for the sake of it. As I said, the question is one for the planning authority.

Baroness Birk

My Lords, is the Minister aware that there is a Private Bill, not yet introduced but which has been printed, called the Kings Cross Railways Bill? If that Bill goes through, under Clause 19 British Rail will be able to override all the existing listed building legislation. That would affect, in particular, the Great Northern Hotel, which is listed grade II. The station itself is listed grade I. One objective is, I understand, that one of the terminals should provide a link for the Channel Tunnel. Can the Minister give an assurance that the Government will oppose Clause 19 of the Bill and insist that British Rail should go through the usual processes of listed building legislation so that development can be appealed against? Such legislation should not be passed.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I certainly cannot give the noble Baroness the assurance she seeks. If there is a Bill before Parliament it is for Parliament to decide how to deal with it.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, is the Minister aware that Liverpool Street Station is a listed building? Some beautiful arches there are being knocked down, which seems a shame.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I am sorry, I did not catch the name of the station.

Lord John-Mackie

My Lords, it is Liverpool Street Station, which is fairly well known.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, without notice I am afraid 1 cannot give details for all the many stations which British Rail own.

Lord Borthwick

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the bridge is being taken down because it is considered to be unsafe? On the other hand I believe it is being removed and is likely to be put up somewhere else, as it is in quite good condition.

Lord Brabazon of Tara

My Lords, I was not aware of that but it is an interesting point.