HL Deb 02 March 1994 vol 552 cc977-9

Baroness Gardner of Parkes asked Her Majesty's Government:

What traffic flow studies and other consultations are to be undertaken prior to consideration of any scheme to pedestrianise the area in front of Buckingham Palace.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, consultants working on behalf of the Royal Parks Agency have carried out extensive studies of the effects of the proposal on surrounding roads and on reducing accidents in the area in front of the palace. The agency is also consulting extensively with interested parties, including Westminster City Council.

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, I thank my noble friend for that Answer. Is she aware that 800 vehicles per hour use those roads? Is she aware also that, for example, the AA has not been consulted about this matter? Will she assure the House that the traffic implications will be taken fully into account? Can my noble friend tell me who will make the final decision about this issue?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, perhaps I may deal first with the last part of my noble friend's question. We shall not proceed with any scheme without first consulting all interested parties. We should be happy to take into account the views of the AA and the RAC if they would like to comment. We are working closely with Westminster City Council, the traffic director for London, the Royal Fine Art Commission, English Heritage, the police and the Army.

Lord Strabolgi

My Lords, one of the steps that could be taken would be to give a longer time for pedestrians at the crossing between Green Park and Buckingham Palace. At present you have to sprint to get across when the green man is showing.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I have never as yet observed the noble Lord sprinting, "says Alice".

Lord Jenkin of Roding

My Lords, where can members of the public see details of the plans? Are they to be given an opportunity to comment on them?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, as I said, we shall not proceed with any scheme without consulting interested parties. The plans are not finalised as yet. Westminster City Council will have them before it in its future discussions at its next meeting.

Lord Gainford

My Lords, if the scheme comes into effect, will it be possible for Members and staff of your Lordships' House and another place to have access through that area, perhaps by the use of special badges on their cars? I ask that because I regularly use the area around Buckingham Palace when driving to and from the Palace of Westminster.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it will not affect those who wish to reach this Palace.

Lord Harvington

My Lords, does the Minister understand that the scheme cannot be put into effect without major alterations to the standing orders of both Houses?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am extremely grateful to my noble friend for that information. I should add, as I have not felt that the atmosphere is tremendously friendly, that Dame Jennifer Jenkins described the front of Buckingham Palace as a national disgrace.

Lord Donoughue

My Lords, to pedestrians and drivers the area is something of a nightmare. But pedestrian precincts are not always an environmental paradise, as we know. They often become playgrounds for drug pedlars, alcoholics, beggars of various pedigrees and so on. Will the Minister assure the House that the aesthetic attractiveness of any design will be given the highest scrutiny? Will local residents be consulted? Will the opinions of the Prince of Wales be sought?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, we have kept the palace informed of progress on the proposed scheme. I should remind your Lordships that there have been a great number of accidents; namely,60 reported accidents involving personal injuries in the past three years. Therefore, it is time that something was done. I hope that attractiveness will feature largely in the final scheme.

Lord Marlesford

My Lords, will my noble friend include in those who are to be consulted the cyclists public affairs group? Is she aware that at present it is one of the most dangerous and unpleasant places to try to navigate on a bicycle?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, it is estimated that the proposed improvements will reduce accidents in the area by half. That will benefit cyclists in particular, who have suffered the greatest number of accidents in the area.

Lord Butterworth

My Lords, the Minister referred to the studies extending to surrounding routes. Is Horse Guards Road likely to be included in the plan?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the recommendation in the Jenkins review to close Horse Guards Road to traffic is being considered separately. We have made no decision as yet about whether to proceed with it. That decision will be made by the Secretary of State. I assure your Lordships that any decision will be made only after consulting interested parties and conducting studies into the effects that it may have on traffic movements in the surrounding area.

Lord Monkswell

My Lords, the Question on the Order Paper refers to the pedestrianisation of the area in front of Buckingham Palace. The Minister said that it is hoped that the proposed plan will cut the accident rate by half. Does that lead us to believe that half of the current accidents are caused by pedestrians banging into each other?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, if the noble Lord reads what I said in Hansard, he will see that I never said that we would cut such accidents by half; I said that it would greatly improve safety for the likes of the noble Lord.

Lord Fraser of Kilmorack

My Lords, in her consideration of such matters, will my noble friend the Minister take into account the fact that at present the great advantage of the situation is that no one can sit down in the area? Has that thought been taken into account? If the area becomes a pedestrian precinct, I can imagine that it will be covered with people sitting down.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am rather pushed for an answer to that question. However, I do not think that people will be able to sit down while the changing of the guard is in process, "says Alice".

Baroness Gardner of Parkes

My Lords, does my noble friend agree that the introduction of a couple of so-called "thinking pelican crossings"—that is, the new type where you press the button and it operates only if the pedestrian is still waiting—would prevent many of those accidents happening to tourists?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, the roads in the park are an integral part of the Royal Parks for the use of people visiting them. They are not the responsibility of either the Department of Transport or the local authority. However, I am sure that, whatever is planned, all aspects and interests will be taken into account and dealt with as carefully as possible.

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