HC Deb 05 August 1975 vol 897 cc118-9W
Mr. Lamborn

asked the Secretary of State for the Environment if he has reached a decision on the planning application referred to him by the Greater London Council for the proposed international merchandise mart of the Surrey Docks.

Mr. Crosland

I have today informed the Greater London Council that I do not wish to intervene in this instance and that it is free to decide the outline planning application as it thinks fit.

I have had representations that because of the importance of the site I should call in the planning application and hold a public inquiry. Concern has been expressed as to the suitability of the site for such development, the cost of improvements necessary to the road infrastructure in the area and to public transport services, and to the fact that the site could possibly be better utilised to provide additional, much-needed housing. I do, however, appreciate the significance of the merchandise mart proposal from the purely local viewpoint, as well as the wider implications nationally. The Surrey Docks have been closed now for about five years, and I feel that the time is long overdue when this vast, largely derelict area should be put to good use.

Although the merchandise mart proposal has been put forward in advance of any firm decisions on a redevelopment plan for Docklands generally, I am satisfied that it is a worthwhile scheme, suitably sited, and one which, rather than prejudicing the satisfactory redevlopment of Docklands, would give a tremendous boost to the regeneration of Docklands.

I am also satisfied that the Greater London Council has investigated thoroughly the need to make improvements to public transport facilities and to the main approach roads in the area and that its road proposals, now estimated at about £9.5 million, are realistic. Some of this expenditure is already included in the GLC's rolling programme to cope with existing traffic conditions, and the GLC has indicated its intention of including other necessary improvements in the programme at the earliest opportunity.

I accept the GLC's contention that the merchandise mart itself will not add significantly to traffic conditions in the area and, indeed, that the prospect of this development will ensure that these long overdue road improvements maintain a high priority for early implementation.

I have also taken into account the housing and employment needs of the area. Although the merchandise mart is expected to generate up to only 3,000–4,000 jobs for local people out of a total work force of about 12,000, this is not a figure to be lightly disregarded. I am aware that Southwark Council has plans for mainly residential development on about 200 acres on adjoining sites in the Surrey Docks, and I feel that these proposals and the merchandise mart will produce a balanced redevelopment of Surrey Docks.

I see no reason, therefore, to delay this development any further by holding a public inquiry.

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