§ Mr. Bulmer
asked the Secretary of State for the Environment whether he has concluded his consideration of the inspector's report following the non-statutory public inquiry into the proposed new Eastern infill development at the Natural History museum.
§ Mr. Heseltine
Yes. I have accepted the inspector's recommendation that 507W the proposals put forward by the trustees of the Natural History museum for the demolition of the eastern galleries and the erection on the site of a five-storey development providing new educational and exhibition facilities should be allowed to proceed, subject to minor alterations to the design of the structures on the roof of the new building which would lower its profile.
The museum has suffered severe overcrowding in recent years: there were 3 million visitors in 1978, compared with 1 million in 1966. In addition, the continuing expansion of the museum's work and the introduction of new-style exhibition's presenting an integrated view of modern biology, have put further pressure on the accommodation available on the site. The trustees' proposal for a new five-storey development will provide an additional 10,224 square metres of space. An educational complex with assembly and teaching areas for school parties will be located at ground floor level, spacious and flexible exhibition space will be provided on the principal floors, and a public restaurant will be sited on the top floors together with roof terraces. Many of the architectural features of the existing galleries will be salvaged for incorporation in the new structure.
The new development has been designed so as not to be visible at normal eye level from Cromwell Road and Exhibition Road, and the alterations I have requested to the design of the structures on the roof of the new building should ensure that it is not visible from other possible viewpoints, more removed from the museum. The new structure will be erected behind the museum's important main facade which will remain unaffected.
Although I regret the loss of the existing eastern infill galleries of this grade I building, I have accepted the inspector's view that, on the basis of the available evidence, the trustees' scheme offers the best way of meeting the operational needs of the museum.