|Previous Section||Home Page|
This interest should not be confined to Kent. The people of Birmingham, Doncaster, Ashfield and Gedling, Bristol, Avon, Warrington and Newport, and all the other places covered by the Bill, should be taking as sharp an interest as we are taking.
Mr. Snape : I assure the hon. Gentleman that the people of all those places, and of West Bromwich, take an interest in these matters. If, however, he is seeking allies for a Bill which will come before the House at a future date, he will not get them by blocking the installation of new railway systems in other parts of the country. Speaking for my constituency --even though I am on the Opposition Front Bench--we in West Bromwich welcome a new railway line. If the hon. Gentleman wants allies to prevent the establishment of a different line, we would appreciate it if he did not block the Bill.
Mr. Deputy Speaker : Order. Hon. Members must be careful not to stray from the subject matter of the Bill that we are discussing. I am sure that the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) will stay in order.
Mr. Rowe : It was never my intention to block this Bill and I did not realise that there was any danger of the House running out of time on it. The House will agree that I have not been frivolous or irrelevant in the remarks I have made. I will not develop further my argument about freight at this stage.
I have no doubt that some of those affected by this Bill will be entitled to compensation. I wonder whether they feel less aggrieved than my constituents, some of whom are distraught at the damage already done to their property by British Rail's proposals. We have no idea if or when this massive purveyor of blight will be built. The chairman of BR, presenting BR's chosen route to MPs, said as his eighth presentational point :
Column 370"We have no idea when this project will become economically viable, but we are sure it will one day."
As a result, hundreds, if not thousands, of households have seen tens of thousands of pounds arbitrarily sliced off the value of each of their homes. As the average stay in a house is less than five years, the great majority of them will have to sell their homes long before any line is built. Surely they are entitled to some compensation.
There must be considerable merit in compensating people if their homes are disturbed by BR proposals to build new lines, to extend existing lines or to alter materially the way in which lines are operated by those properties being bought by the British Rail Property Board, one of the largest property organisations in the country. It is imbued with the clear vision, which is shared by railwaymen throughout the country, that living near a railway line is an asset rather than a disadvantage.
Given that to be the case, it has nothing to lose by backing its judgment and buying properties which, to their present owners, appear to be disadvantaged by the existence of a railway line. That is, in BR's eyes, a serious misconception because it believes that people will benefit from the railway line, even if they do not understand that at this stage.
The British Rail Property Board should buy the large numbers of houses that will be at a serious disadvantage in the property market because of British Rail's proposed changes which, in many cases, may take many years to come to fruition.
I do not wish to be destructive or Luddite or to block the Bill in any way, and I bring my speech to a close.
Mr. Alan Meale (Mansfield) : I congratulate the hon. Member for New Forest (Mr. McNair-Wilson) on introducing the Bill so that we might at last have the opportunity to try to obtain proper transport services in my area, if works No. 3 of the Bill is eventually carried out.
Tonight we are faced with an unusual set of circumstances, particularly when we remember what has recently happened in the railways. The hon. Member for New Forest has received an all-party and disciplined response to his call to get the Bill through the House this evening. The Bill's supporters come from both Conservative and Opposition Members and the Government support the Bill's passage through to Committee.
My hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) has a great history with, and knowledge of, the railways, in particular the National Union of Railwaymen. If hon. Members were to examine my biographical details, which are in the Library, they would see that I too have a history of working with the rail unions and with the train drivers, union, ASLEF.
I should also like to thank the hon. Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) for saying that he does not wish to block the Bill, which will also provide a great service for his constituents. Whether he likes it or not--I am sure that he does--my in-laws are his constituents. They live in Bearsted in Kent and I am sure that they will be pleased that the hon. Gentleman will not be opposing the Bill. As my hon. Friend the Member for West Bromwich, East said earlier, the Bill will enable them to board a train in their constituency and travel to the largest town in England yet to acquire a railway service.
Column 371All the hon. Members who support works No. 3 of the Bill represent constituencies in Nottinghamshire--the hon. Member for Sherwood (Mr. Stewart), my hon. Friends the Members for Bassetlaw (Mr. Ashton), for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) and for Nottingham, North (Mr. Allen)--and have been active in pursuing the objectives contained in the Bill. Credit should also be given to British Rail for its excellent work in bringing the Bill to the House, and to the local authorities in the Nottinghamshire area--in particular to Nottinghamshire county council, which has spent much time and money arguing the need for such services into the east midlands areas. The county council has spent much money with Leeds university going through feasibility studies with the communities that will be involved in stages one and two of the programme. I am happy to report that on each occasion, the general public were very much in favour of reviving the service.
If it is reintroduced, the line will travel from Nottingham to Ashfield, Mansfield and Worksop and will pass through many areas that have lost their main source of employment because of the massive pit closure programme in Nottinghamshire in recent years. These communities have lost pits or the pits in them are at risk, and the line would be a shining light in these areas, heralding the restructuring of opportunity throughout Nottinghamshire.
I am pleased to report that the Bill is also supported by the Railway Development Society and all the MEPs of the area. As the Minister knows, only last week Worksop, Mansfield and Nottingham were given the go-ahead by the EEC, thanks to the support of the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster. I should be grateful if the Minister for Public Transport would pass on a message of thanks to his right hon. Friend for his honest approach to the application for grant. These three areas in Nottinghamshire have successfully applied for regional assistance from the EC. We hope that some of the money will be used to rebuild our society, which has been so badly hit. If the Bill becomes law it will be a shining example of economic development for people in the areas concerned. Not much light has been seen there in recent times. Not only is Mansfield the largest town in England without a railway, it is a small constituency. I could walk its width in about 45 minutes. It is like a city in the middle of the country. My hon. Friends who represent neighbouring constituencies could probably drive for 30 or 40 minutes and still be in them. The constituency is many miles from the centres that do have transport. The M1 is five or six miles away and the A1 more than seven miles away. The main conurbations such as Worksop are further from the M1. Worksop is about 17 miles from Mansfield, which is 12 miles from Chesterfield--the nearest railway station--15 miles from Nottingham railway station, and 19 miles from the railway station in Newark. This is a problem area, and the Bill would give us great hope if it became law.
The Bill would also give us the chance to try to attract new businesses and create the employment necessary to reduce unemployment in the areas through which the route would pass. Up to 37,000 people are unemployed now in the small communities that would benefit from such a service.
Column 372I appreciate the fact that my hon. Friend the Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett) has decided not to pursue his objections to the Bill at the end of the debate. I am grateful to him because I know of his concerns. I may add that I have equal admiration for the sturdy work that he does on behalf of the Ramblers Association and others. For many years he has represented their interests in this Chamber. In conclusion, I beg hon. Members on both sides of the House, in the interests of an awful lot of people--about 500,000--to register their objections by a method different from that which might be adopted in the Chamber tonight. If they think it necessary, let them adopt the procedure that could be used at the Committee stage. 9.15 pm
Mr. Gerald Bowden (Dulwich) : I do not want in any way to oppose this Bill or to impede its progress. As the hon. Members for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) and for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) have said, where it affects particular constituencies it is to be welcomed. In that spirit I do welcome it. I have taken note of the words of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett), who gave the Bill qualified support. I think he accepts that the legislation has to go through as a private Bill, but he expressed the view that this principle may itself be wrong. It seems entirely wrong and archaic that the presentation of propositions, plans and proposals to improve the railway system in this country should depend on the private Bill procedure. It is wrong that debates attended by so few hon. Members should be the means by which people's lives are changed dramatically--in some cases, their homes destroyed and their whole lifestyle and family life put at risk.
The principle of this Bill is broadly welcome, but it is the same principle that will be used in the next few days to get the King's Cross measure through. There has been little consultation. The very procedure this evening demonstrates the inadequacies. The establishment of a second terminal in London, at King's Cross, will predetermine the route through south-east England and the route through London. The proposal presupposes that every passenger going to Mansfield or West Bromwich, East, or Denton and Reddish must go through London. It presupposes that every item of freight coming through the Channel tunnel or coming from the south-east of this country will have to go through London before reaching an onward destination.
This Bill demonstrates the inadequacies of the parliamentary vehicle, even though its purpose is generally acceptable. I will give an example to illustrate my point. Last week--quite out of the blue, without warning--it was proposed that, by way of a private Bill, a whole area of my constituency centred on Warwick gardens should be disrupted. It is suggested that there should be a sub-surface junction with a branch line going to Waterloo by a most circuitous route. People who are not going to Waterloo will go through King's Cross.
The locality has been presented with a great problem, which raises the question whether we ought to change our procedures for dealing with British Rail matters. We must ask whether there should be some kind of public inquiry to meet the needs of local residents and to give them an input as to the implications. As my hon. Friend the Member for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) suggested, there is often far more
Column 373expertise, experience and professional skill locally than is available to British Rail in making its plans in the first instance. It would be very wrong not to recognise that and to proceed with this means of dealing with British Rail business.
I will not oppose the Bill ; indeed, if it goes to a vote I will support it, but, in supporting it, I am doing so for its proposals and not for the means of their implementation--the matter, not the manner. Before we embark on other major legislative proposals introduced by private Bill that will affect not only thousands in the south-east today but millions throughout the rest of the country tomorrow, we should consider whether the procedure is right. I believe that it is wrong.
Mr. Patrick McNair-Wilson : With the leave of the House, I should like to deal with some of the points that have been made and thank my hon. Friend the Minister and the hon. Member for West Bromwich, East (Mr. Snape) for their support. As the hon. Member for Mansfield (Mr. Meale) rightly said, this is important legislation and the sooner it passes its remaining stages the better it will be for British Rail and the travelling public. I was interested by the remarks of the hon. Member for Mansfield about works No. 3.
I listened with interest to the comments made by my hon. Friends the Members for Mid-Kent (Mr. Rowe) and Dulwich (Mr. Bowden). They dealt with important matters relating to British Rail, and although their remarks were slightly outside the detail of the Bill I am sure that they will have been noted by the Department and the British Railways Board.
I shall deal in more detail with the remarks of the hon. Member for Denton and Reddish (Mr. Bennett). Interestingly, he drew our attention to the report of the Joint Select Committee on Private Bill Procedure, of which I had the honour of being Chairman. I am looking forward to the debate on private Bill procedure almost as much as the hon. Gentleman. We shall discuss the provision of powers for British Rail that will be an alternative to the current private Bill system. Let us hope that we will not have to wait too long for that debate. The hon. Member for Denton and Reddish specifically addressed his remarks to the footpaths that we were discussing earlier this evening and to clauses 18 and 19. As he will know, there are powers in the Highways Act 1980, but, as my hon. Friend the Minister said, safety is not a consideration. The Joint Select Committee report makes some suggestions about that.
It might have been possible to apply to a magistrates' court under section 116--I am thinking mainly of the Ribble crossing--to obtain powers if the highway authorities had been so minded. It is necessary to prove that the way in question is unnecessary. It is believed that
Column 374magistrates are likely to be unwilling so to find, especially if there is evidence of opposition to the proposal. While the board does not seek to dissuade highway authorities from making applications under section 116, as, if they are successful, the board and the highway authority are content, it is difficult to argue that it is an appropriate vehicle for dealing with such matters.
As the law stands, if there is considerable objection it could be a slow or futile process when one is dealing with something that, in the wider context of the works in the earlier part of the Bill, means that closures are essential. If we are to use the present procedures, the board has no alternative. I hope that the hon. Gentleman will understand that, although he and I may share views about how things should be done on another occasion.
Mr. Andrew F. Bennett : I admired the work done by the Joint Committee on private Bill procedure and I hope that much of its work will be implemented quickly. It strikes me that promoting a private Bill could save some time. On other occasions, will British Rail consider starting, proceedings under the Highways Act 1980 so that, when it reaches this stage, it can say that local agreement has been reached or that a local inquiry has been undertaken and that the inspector has found that there is a case for closure? I believe that that would simplify things.
The hon. Member for West Bromwich, East discussed the Sandwell borough council problem. He referred to the school and the new buildings. It is important to note that, conscious that the crossing is of such potential danger, the council has concluded that the only satisfactory solution would be to close it completely. Coincidentally, the council's education committee has proposals for extending the accommodation at the main Alexandra high school, thereby enabling it to close the annex in Queen's road. Therefore the only caveat which the council has is that the crossing should remain open until July 1990, when the academic year ends. The hon. Gentleman stressed that point. Against that background the board, by clause 19 of the Bill, seeks power to stop up the crossing.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman will consider that that is a fair solution given the problems relating to a busy piece of track and the possible dangers to children and others if something is not done. The proposals are comparatively modest. They do not represent major pieces of railway building, but are essential to the proper performance of the railway system. Therefore, I hope that the House will now allow the Bill to go forward to Committee for further consideration.
Question put and agreed to.
Bill accordingly read a Second time and committed.
Order for Second Reading read.
The passage of the Bill will enable the work to begin on a hotel and leisure complex that will bring considerable benefit to the area as a whole and to my constituency in particular. The hotel and leisure complex will be built on a small part of the site occupied by the old crystal palace.
That palace was opened by Queen Victoria in June 1854 and between then and the beginning of the first world war it became the dominant entertainment and cultural centre of south London. Crowds flocked there to watch sporting events, listen to concerts and to marvel at the art displays and the permanent exhibitions. The crystal palace led to the development of the surrounding area.
In 1914 the management of crystal palace changed and the Crystal Palace Act 1914 empowered trustees to hold and to manage it as a place of public resort and recreation. The main object of the trust, as expressed in the 1914 Act, was to maintain and manage the park as "a place for Education and Recreation and for the promotion of Industry, Commerce and Art"
In 1936, as some of us will remember, the crystal palace burned down in one of the greatest peacetime fires ever known in the country. Much of the park continued to be open, but the site of the crystal palace was derelict and closed to the public. In 1951 control of the area passed to the London county council and in 1965 it was taken over by the Greater London council. In 1986 control passed to the London borough of Bromley and the council of the London borough of Bromley wished to open up the area, which had lain derelict and closed to all members of the public for more than 50 years. Much of the work is already in hand, partly in conjunction with English Heritage.
The council decided, after very wide consultation, that it would be beneficial to lease part of the land and to build a £20 million hotel and leisure complex and, because there is a shortage of such facilities in the area, money from the lease would pay for the improvements to other parts of the park.
The aim of the Bill is to permit the commercial co-operation necessary and the implementation of easements on the land concerned. Clause 3 of the Bill, which is the operative clause, would permit the council to lease all or part of the land shown on the plan and to grant easement in connection with the provision of a hotel, restaurant, shops, licensed premises, leisure facilities, entertainment facilities or other associated uses.
The 1951 Act gave the LCC very wide powers to build or alter buildings, create gardens, ornamental lakes and even spaces for military drill, but under the strict interpretation of the 1951 Act the provision of a hotel did not seem to come under the five headings of education, recreation, industry, commerce or art. Clause 3 of the Bill fills that gap.
The council's plans, which were unveiled two years ago, have been the subject of very wide local consultation. This large draft landscape plan was widely circulated. There was a popular version of it. There were public meetings and an exhibition in the civic centre, and the views of local inhabitants were canvassed widely.
Column 376The result of that consultation showed a unanimity which we normally associate with the regimes of Romania or Albania : over 95 per cent. of those consulted or who responded to the consultation were in favour of the council's broad proposals, and there has been all-party support for them.
The area surrounding Crystal Palace park is represented by Conservative and Labour councillors, while the area of the Bill itself is part of a ward presently represented by two councillors who were members of the SDP and who are now members of the party widely known as the "salads". Conservatives, Labour and SLD have supported the proposals. It is not surprising that the plan received such widespread support. There is a shortage of first-class hotel accommodation in the area, and Holiday Inn, which will run the hotel, has a deservedly high reputation.
It is perhaps worth noting that the management of the national sports centre, which will be overlooked by the hotel, is particularly enthusiastic about this 150-bedroom development, for many of the leading athletes who come to the national sports centre now look down their noses at the hostel rooms available at the sports centre itself. It is also worth noting that the Department of the Environment and the relevant tourist authorities also strongly support the provision of extra first-class hotel accommodation in the area.
The hotel and leisure complex will also provide a welcome extension to employment opportunities in the area. Over the past two years the unemployment rate in the area has dropped dramatically, but new job oppportunities are still welcome. The creation of 200 new jobs, of which a substantial proportion should be filled by my constituents, will still be very welcome.
The few people who object to the proposal tend to believe that open space will be taken away from the general public. That is not so. For more than 50 years, since the palace burned down, the 20 acres which we are talking about have been closed off entirely. No member of the public has had free access to the bramble-covered terraces, and for 80 years before the great fire in 1936, the public had to pay to get into that area.
It is exactly 175 years since the few acres which we are talking about were last generally open to the public. The Open Spaces Society has raised some objections in recent weeks. Consultations have taken place between that society and council officials. I believe that the objections on the grounds of loss of an open site can and will be met.
There is also a feeling in some quarters that the jobs on offer should be looked down upon because they will be mainly in a first-class hotel. I believe that that attitude is wholly mistaken. Tourism and business travel are growth industries in most parts of the world. There is nothing second- rate about jobs which provide shelter, food and comfort for travellers.
There is also some concern about the extra traffic which will be generated by the development. It is impossible to build a 150-bedroom hotel anywhere in London without causing some traffic problems. However, it would be difficult to think of a site more capable of absorbing extra pressure than this. Crystal Palace parade, which the development will adjoin, is an exceptionally wide thoroughfare and the scheme envisages the provision of no fewer than 800 parking places. It is true that there is considerable congestion on the roads in other boroughs
Column 377near the access to the roundabout where Anerly hill meets Crystal Palace parade. However, some elementary traffic management in those boroughs would ease the problem.
By all sensible criteria, therefore, this scheme, which has all-party support, should be allowed to proceed. I hope that the House will give this worthwhile Bill a Second Reading.
Mr. Tony Banks (Newham, North-West) : I had several reasons for blocking the Bill originally. As an ex-member of the Greater London council, I have no love for the London borough of Bromley. I may as well come straight out and declare my prejudices. If the London borough of Bromley promoted a private Bill to give away free bacon sandwiches, I would object to it.
I well remember that borough's record in its--as it turned out--successful attempt to destroy the GLC's "fares fair" policy. I believe that that was unconscionable. It put the London borough of Bromley in the kind of context where I have always kept it. It is one of the meanest, nastiest, mean- spirited boroughs, and I want to respond in kind tonight.
My second point is the substantial one and it is that my dislike of the London borough of Bromley is more than matched by my great love of the crystal palace site. The hon. Member for Beckenham (Sir P. Goodhart) quite rightly described some of the feeling that many Londoners have for the crystal palace, particularly those of us who have lived in the south of London. For electoral purposes I have transferred my residence to the east side of London but it is a difficult jump to make. That river is a great barrier, physically and psychologically, in many respects, so my feelings still are with areas such as Crystal Palace where I spent a great deal of my childhood.
I ought to say something about the crystal palace because it plays an enormously powerful image-building role in the consciousness of many people who live in the south of London. One does not have to have been around at the time of the great exhibition of 1851, although one or two hon. Gentlemen I know were, to have taken the tram ride up Sydneham hill or to have seen the great fire in 1936. My mother still talks about the fact that in 1936 the glow over the whole of London was fantastic. It was one of the greatest fires that London had ever seen and people were taking the tram to Crystal Palace to see this spectacular incident. It provided a good night out for large numbers of Londoners, but a far greater number deeply regretted that tragic fire, the causes of which, as far as I am aware, have never yet been found although it happened all those years ago. At least one was able to go up there by tram in 1936. I am still looking round for the very clever person who decided that we did not need trams any more. I remember riding on what was, I think, the last tram from the Oval to Brixton, from my school to where I lived. The hon. Member for Surrey, South -West (Mrs. Bottomley) looks up. I was, of course, a child in arms, just in case she tries to check in Dod's. It was a sad occasion when the trams were removed. We now have bus lanes, which are unenforceable. Those trams that took people to see the great conflagration of 1936 could have been doing a very useful job since 1936 and right through to 1989 taking the citizens of London round somewhat faster than the buses and tubes do today.
Column 378The original crystal palace, as you probably know, Mr. Deputy Speaker, was built in Hyde park to house the great exhibition of 1851. The idea of the exhibition was to enable Britain, at that time the wealthiest and most powerful nation in the world, and other countries, to display their manufactures and arts and thereby promote international trade and understanding. The designer of the building was Joseph Paxton, a brilliantly versatile man, who was self-taught in architecture. He was not an architect but a gardener, as I recall, who was very adept at putting up glasshouses, and he made the crystal palace one of the largest glasshouses that the world has ever seen. The structure was of iron and glass. It was 1,848 ft long and 488 ft wide and held more than 100,000 exhibits.
As the hon. Member for Beckenham said, there is no longer a palace at Crystal Palace. For more than half a century, one of the finest sites in London has remained empty, while that great symbol of the Victorians' faith in progress and enlightenment has lived on only in the imagination. Such was its grip on the imagination of so many people in London, young and old, that it has remained the crystal palace. Many mementoes of the palace were created, so that we have many visual images in prints, paintings, models and medallions, which one can still buy fairly cheaply in the markets of London. If anyone wants to start a good collection, I suggest 1851 memorabilia. They might not appreciate in price, because millions of these things were produced during the course of the great exhibition, but they give an image of the sort of vision that the Victorians had--a vision that is so sadly lacking on the Government Benches today.
Mr. Roger Sims (Chislehurst) : I remind the hon. Gentleman that although the Crystal Palace was destroyed by fire, the two towers remained as a visual reminder of the old palace until they were pulled down during the war.
Mr. Banks : Vandals are all around us, even to this day. Let us briefly move on to the 1951 festival of Britain. It is a lamentable fact that its skylon and dome of discovery were pulled down. Even a shot tower went in order to clear the site. Fortunately, no one has proposed pulling down the Royal Festival hall. That example of the festival of Britain shows that, even in a period when one might have thought people would be more concerned and sensitive about our architectural legacy, the vandals were still among us and prepared to destroy it. In the same way that there is a proposal to recreate the site of the 1851 exhibition, there are also proposals, which the House debated yesterday, to recreate something close to the 1951 festival on the south bank. I have as many reservations about that as I do about the 1851 re-creation.
Sir Philip Goodhart : The two towers to which the hon. Gentleman referred were pulled down not as an act of cultural vandalism but because they served as a landmark for German bombers during the war. They were removed as an anti-aircraft measure.
Even though the crystal palace site remained derelict after the 1936 fire and after the towers were pulled down, it had an ability to recapture the spirit that prevailed there until the great fire--even though we knew that it was not
Column 379the original site of the great exhibition and that the palace was transferred from Hyde park to Sydenham hill. I hope that I have made my point about the palace's imagery.
It is now suggested that the palace will rise, phoenix-like, from the ashes on Sydenham hill. What rises from the ashes will not be a replica or re- creation of one of the 19th century's finest monuments, but a mockery. The romanticism of the crystal palace, which has acquired almost mythical importance, is to end in pathos. My second objection to the scheme is the function of the proposed building, which is to be private rather than public. It would be built on the site of the original terraces, which Bromley restored with the help of English Heritage, using taxpayers' and not private money. The Crystal Palace Foundation, which is an institution for which I have the highest regard and which was established in 1979, welcomes the prospect of a new crystal palace but questions whether the hotel and proposed facilities are necessary and whether a more imaginative scheme should not be promoted. The foundation asks :
"If this is to be the new palace of the people, could there be space created for public meetings, conferences, concerts, and so on?"
Mentioning concerts gives me an opportunity to ask the hon. Member for Beckenham, who has a constituency interest in the matter, to tell me what happened to the open-air concerts at the Crystal Palace bowl. In the days when the GLC was responsible for the Crystal Palace park, I used to spend very enjoyable evenings at the weekend attending open-air concerts, which attracted thousands of people from the immediate locality. That was a really enjoyable experience. What happened to those concerts? Why have they stopped? That is one of the casualties of the GLC's abolition that has not drawn much comment either in the House or outside it. I will gladly give way to the hon. Member for Beckenham if he can explain why I have had to feel so deprived on Saturday and Sunday evenings since the abolition of the GLC, partly because I have been unable to attend concerts at Crystal Palace. For the new complex to become just another hotel does not reflect what the original Crystal Palace stood for.
The London borough of Lambeth has considered the proposal. Although I do not know whether the borough has communicated the full extent of its objections to the Bill's promoter, I know that correspondence has been exchanged between the boroughs of Lambeth and Bromley. Lambeth has objected to the various changes proposed by Bromley to enable the complex to go ahead. Bromley's additional aims would include "a hotel, restaurant, shops, leisure facilities, entertainment facilities or other associated uses".
In September 1987 members of the town planning application sub-committee in Lambeth were advised by their officers that Bromley's proposals for the site were premature and took no account of the visual effects or the traffic effect on the area or the benefit to users of the park from such development. Lambeth's sub-committee agreed, and the council therefore replied to Bromley stating its objections
"on the grounds that insufficient detail was provided as to the sale of the development and suggested that (a) a planning brief for the Crystal Palace Parade site is prepared by Bromley officers ; (b) a Public Inquiry is held to consider hotel/leisure development proposals before planning permission is
Column 380granted ; and (c) a comprehensive traffic management study is carried out to assess the impact of the proposed developments." I would like to know to what extent any of the requests made by the London borough of Lambeth were commented on or followed by the London borough of Bromley. The paper that I have in front of me, having recently acquired it from the London borough of Lambeth, states : "Bromley's Borough Plan (adopted in 1985) designates the Crystal Palace park as Metropolitan Open Land. This includes the application site on which Lambeth's observations were sought. The Plan's written statement contains three policies on Metropolitan Open Land. Policy R8 states :
Within the areas of Metropolitan Open Land as defined on the Proposal Map the following are the only uses which will generally be considered acceptable : (i) Public and private open space and playing fields ; (ii) agriculture, woodland and orchards ; (iii) golf courses ; (iv) allotments and nursery gardens ; (v) cemeteries and crematoria ; and (vi) schools and institutions in large grounds'.
The proposals to which Lambeth objected did not appear, therefore, to conform to Bromley's own adopted Borough Plan, yet there was no reference to a possible departure from the Borough Plan in Bromley's request for formal observations from this Council."
It is clear that Bromley is prepared to alter its own plan, adopted as recently as 1985.
" Bromley Council granted itself deemed planning permission for the application referred to It was not called in, despite it appearing to represent a departure from the adopted Bromley Borough Plan. However, it appears that the existing legislation, contained in the London County Council (Crystal Palace) Act 1951 is not wide-ranging enough to encompass Bromley Council's plans for the use of the Park."
That is why Bromley has come to the House to use the Private Bill procedure to change the legislation and to get round its own plan. That brings me to my third objection, which has been echoed by Conservative Members in respect of other legislation : the use of private Bill procedure, in the event of controversial, perhaps unacceptable proposals such as this, to get round planning inquiries. Often the promoters of a Bill use the private Bill procedure to circumvent a local authority's own planning procedures. Here we have a local authority using private Bill procedure to circumvent its own planning procedures, which is twice as bad.
That is why I object so strongly to the Bill. It is not the way to go about it. The hon. Member for Beckenham said that the various documents had been well circulated around the area. Of course I accept what he says, but so often what happens in such circumstances is that the documents are put through people's doors. The bigger and bulkier they are the more one can guarantee that they will not be read.
The hon. Gentleman may intervene, or wait to reply to the points that I have raised, to say whether a synopsis of the plan was circulated, in which the proposals were fairly simple and straightforward so that people would get a general idea of what was being proposed. Even if that has been done, it is no substitute for a proper local inquiry so that people have the opportunity to think about it.
It is not a question of people sitting isolated in their homes waiting for documents to be stuffed through their letterboxes, reading them and understanding immediately the implications of the proposals. We all know that it does not happen like that. People may throw the information to one side or not understand it. It is only when people who have more time and direct interest have studied the
Column 381document and explained its implications that the real body of feeling awakens. I believe that there will be a real body of opinion when people become more aware of precisely what the proposals entail.
Mr. Ivor Stanbrook (Orpington) : Will the hon. Gentleman tell us what plans the Greater London council had for developing the site when it had control of it, so that we can appreciate his point more fully?
Mr. Banks : That is a fascinating subject. I should love to hold the attention of the House for as long as possible, perhaps even until 11.30 pm, to explain all the various proposals that we had. The main area of expenditure by the Greater London council was on the national sports centre. When I was chairman of the arts and recreation committee of the Greater London council, I took great pleasure in devoting a large amount of London ratepayers' money to the development of that site, without feeling guilty. I have had close, detailed discussions with the Crystal Palace Society about what we could do with the site where the new development is to take place.
I must tell the hon. Gentleman that my plan was to completely rebuild the crystal palace. We have all the plans and many of the artefacts still exist. It might look like a tip, but plenty of things could be restored. The Crystal Palace Society has done a wonderful job restoring many of the old artefacts from the original site. My idea was to rebuild it and we started discussing the proposal. It would have been an exhibition centre for concerts and for the arts generally, but essentially it would have been a public development scheme. However, we are talking big money--or megabucks, as they say. Although the Greater London council was a fairly well-heeled organisation, in the time scale that I envisaged we did not have the money for that development, but the idea was there. It was not just a dream : I had committed it to paper and worked out some plans and some proposals which I think would have grabbed the imagination of people in the immediate vicinity and throughout London.
The hon. Member for Orpington (Mr. Stanbrook) asked me a question and I have done my best to answer it. The hon. Gentleman put up a fairly spirited defence of the Greater London council from time to time.
Mr. Stanbrook indicated dissent --
Mr. Banks : I was giving the hon. Gentleman the benefit of the doubt. I thought that he was on the side of the angels, but I realise that, as ever, he was working with the forces of darkness to try to destroy the Greater London council. I meant to refer to the hon. Member for Beckenham.
The destruction of the Greater London council was a tragedy and was deeply resented by large numbers of Londoners. Opinion polls still show that 70 per cent. of Londoners oppose the Government's proposals. But she that must be obeyed had already decided that the Greater London council was to be abolished. Therefore, it went. The renaissance of that wonderful crystal palace could have been achieved. I hope that the hon. Member for Orpington feels totally ashamed of the shabby role that he played in the destruction of the Greater London council, thus denying the resurrection of the wonderful Crystal Palace.