HL Deb 02 March 1989 vol 504 cc1142-4

3.23 p.m.

Lord St. John of Fawsley asked Her Majesty's Government:

What progress has been made with plans for the development of County Hall and the contiguous area.

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the London Residuary Body and the County Hall Development Group exchanged contracts for the sale of County Hall complex on 27th January this year. The County Hall Development Group jointly with the London Residuary Body submitted a number of applications for planning permission, listed building consent and conservation area consent to the London borough of Lambeth on 10th February.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, 1 thank my noble friend for that reply. Is he aware that the Royal Fine Art Commission is reasonably content with the treatment of County Hall but is deeply disturbed by the inclusion in the development of a monstrous white elephant of an office building which will, by its bulk and height, dominate Scott's riverside building and will cast a giant shadow in front of it? In view of the importance of the site to the capital and to the nation, will my noble friend persuade his right honourable friend the Secretary of State for the Environment to call in that development and to hold a public inquiry?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I shall draw the remarks of my noble friend Lord St. John to the attention of my right honourable friend. The usual procedures for obtaining consent will apply to the proposed alterations. The County Hall Development Group has announced publicly that it intends to restore the major rooms, including the council chamber and the concert hall, and to remove the post-war additions to reinstate Sir Ralph Scott's original design. I am sure that my noble friend will approve of that proposal.

Lord Hatch of Lusby

My Lords, will the Minister tell the House whether the suggestion made by the noble Lord, Lord St. John, is a reality, and whether there is a danger of a large multi-storey building being constructed near County Hall? If that is so, does he agree that it will distort the whole of the South Bank area, which to many of us is a precious heritage and a social asset not just to London but to the country?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I am sure that the noble Lord, Lord Hatch, will be aware that it is for the local planning authority—Lambeth borough—in the first instance to consider the application. It would be wrong for me to attempt to anticipate its decision.

Baroness Strange

My Lords, is my noble friend aware that the site of County Hall is called Pedlar's Acre? Does he agree that the original pedlar would not have approved of a monstrous white elephant when he gave the site to the church, St. Mary's, Lambeth, in exchange for a small corner of the churchyard in which to bury his dog?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, I have to bow to my noble friend's greater historical knowledge and accuracy on that matter.

Lord Graham of Edmonton

My Lords, what steps do the Government intend to take to ensure that the money raised from the sale of the site is maximised and is then returned to the people of London, from whom County Hall was stolen in the first place?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, the residuary body will receive the money, which it handles on behalf of the ratepayers of London.

Lord Plummer of St. Marylebone

My Lords, what steps will the Government take to improve the traffic conditions in York Road, as it is evident that the development will create a great deal more activity and that there will be an increase in passenger traffic at Waterloo by reason of the Channel Tunnel?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, in the long term, if the building in the middle of the roundabout is removed the roundabout will become better and the traffic flow will improve.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, whatever the planners decide, will they bear in mind that it will be necessary to reconvert the building to County Hall after the next general election?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, that is probably a matter of opinion.

Lord St. John of Fawsley

My Lords, will my noble friend, who has so kindly said that he will intervene with the Secretary of State for the Environment on the question of the office building, also draw to his attention the fact that the rest of the South Bank site is being developed and that it is essential, for aesthetic reasons, that the development of the County Hall site and the rest of the South Bank site be co-ordinated?

Lord Hesketh

My Lords, as always, I am grateful for the remarks made by my noble friend. I know he will appreciate that I cannot anticipate the first stage of that process, which will be the decision of the Lambeth borough planning department.

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