HL Deb 25 July 1991 vol 531 cc876-8

11.11 a.m.

Lord Rea asked Her Majesty's Government:

Whether they will consider making a contribution to restoration work on the monument at Seven Dials Circus, Monmouth Street, WC2, to enable it to be completed.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Baroness Blatch)

My Lords, the Government have no plans to make a contribution to the restoration work on or around the monument at Seven Dials.

Lord Rea

My Lords, I thank the noble Baroness for that Answer, which was entirely predictable. Is she aware that the Seven Dials monument is the focus for an imaginative development scheme for the whole of the Seven Dials neighbourhood which aims to restore its original character? Will the noble Baroness be able to assist through any agency under her auspices? The local borough of Camden is at present rather strapped for cash.

I shall be grateful if the noble Baroness can assist me on a further point. I have been intrigued by why —and this is the case even on the original monument built by Thomas Neal in 1794—there are only six sun dials on the monument whereas the district has always been known under its present name of Seven Dials.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, perhaps I may take the last point first. There are indeed six dials. The monument itself forms a seventh dial. I have found researching this Question fascinating: it is a pleasant change. The Seven Dials Monument Company has been in touch with my department. It said that it wishes its fund raising to be independent of government. The company intends to raise its moneys separately on its own. However, the company believes that there are ways in which the department can be helpful in developing interesting conservation work in that area. We shall be talking to the company about ways in which we can help. English Heritage is extremely impressed by what the company is doing and believes that it is setting an example which others may wish to follow.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, is the Minister aware that Seven Dials is a conservation area within the Covent Garden district? It is a district of great charm and interest which was saved from total destruction by the noble Lord, Lord Rippon of Hexham. In view of her encouraging reply will the Government carry on the good work and help towards the reconstruction of this monumental pillar, which was erected in the 17th century and not in the 18th century, as my noble friend said? It was removed in the late 18th century. The pillar is an attractive feature of the Seven Dials Circus.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I understand that the monument was built in 1690. I had not realised that the noble Lord, Lord Rea, had mentioned a different century. We are talking about a replica because the original monument is in Surrey in a Grade II listed building and is being well cared for. The point that the noble Lord, Lord Strabolgi, makes about conservation is well taken. Covent Garden is an unusual and interesting conservation area and we believe that the work being carried out is interesting. English Heritage is impressed and believes that the work represents a model for others to follow.

Baroness Hollis of Heigham

My Lords, the document that I hold states that the monument was erected in 1694 and was removed in 1773. Given that the sun dial is useful, decorative, commemorative and many faceted, is it not precisely the kind of sun dial with which the Secretary of State will wish to be associated?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, perhaps I may read from the letter that I have received from the company. It states: The charity has always aimed to succeed without public funds and indeed we have raised a fair percentage of the proportion through generating our own on-site income". It has raised £185,000 out of the necessary £250,000. The letter continues: However, there may be ways in which the Government could assist without direct funding". That is the point that I have been making and the point about which we wish to speak to the company.

Lord Rea

My Lords, is the Minister aware that, although the present ugly hoarding surrounding the monument is generating income of £18,000 per annum through advertising, it will take at least four years to pay off the accumulated deficit if that is the only source of income? At present the monument is earning a living but only by being concealed.

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am not sure that I see very much wrong with that. Work is being carried out behind the hoarding and presumably the funds that are raised are being ploughed back into the project. So far the company has raised £185,000 of the £250,000 that is required and is about to launch the second phase of its appeal. I believe that the company has done a remarkably good job.

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