HL Deb 11 November 1991 vol 532 cc401-2

2.44 p.m.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil asked Her Majesty's Government:

What plans they have for the future of No. 2 Marsham Street.

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

My Lords, No. 2 Marsham Street is in need of major repair. Arup Associates were commissioned by the Department of the Environment to produce a study identifying a range of options for the future of the Marsham Street site. That study was completed earlier this year and the logistical and financial aspects of its options are now being evaluated. A decision on the future of the site will be announced once that evaluation is complete.

Lord Peyton of Yeovil

My Lords, I am moderately grateful to my noble friend for her reply, but will she urge upon her colleagues the desirability of resisting the temptation to spend a great deal of money on repairing that graceless and hideous building?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I shall take back that message from my noble friend with some enthusiasm. He is knocking at an open door when he implores me to join him in his description of the building at No. 2 Marsham Street.

The Earl of Onslow

My Lords, is it correct, as was reported, that the Secretary of State wanted to go to Docklands and that that proposal was resisted by, for want of a better phrase, the "Yes, Minister" attitude of the Civil Service? Will my noble friend bear in mind that office space in London is now cheaper than it has ever been because there is a vast glut and renting that space would be much cheaper than restoring the abomination in Marsham Street?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I am not able to confirm that that view was taken by my right honourable friend the Secretary of State because the evaluation is not yet complete. If relocation in London should become necessary, it will feature as part of the evaluation.

Lord McIntosh of Haringey

My Lords, does the Minister agree that the ideal use for the site would be as an urban park and adventure playground? Is she deterred from that ideal view by the fact that the site is above the regional seat of government?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, as regards what was originally on the site, if we then had the listing procedure that we have now, we would see on that site the first of the public gasworks, which was built in 1813, and I suspect that my department would not allow the demolition of the first public gasworks. However, if it were ever to be demolished, whatever takes its place on the site must be the outcome of the evaluation.

Lord Tordoff

My Lords, does the noble Baroness agree that a public gasworks is rather a good description of No. 2 Marsham Street?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, I suppose that it is no understatement to say that there is not a great deal to choose between them.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, will my noble friend encourage her right honourable friend the Secretary of State to look at No. 2 Marsham Street in a rather wider context and perhaps produce a plan for enhancing the beauty of London by removing as many of the post-war eyesores as possible, of which No. 2 Marsham Street should clearly be high on the list?

Baroness Blatch

My Lords, my noble friend makes an important point. It is not just a case of the future of the building, nor of the future of government demand for offices. What should be done aesthetically for this part of London will feature as part of the appraisal.