|Previous Section||Home Page|
Column 90Goldsmith FRIBA is behind the Lister Goldsmith plan for that linear park which would have been such a wonderful innovation for the environment and people of Leyton. On 26 April he wrote to the Prime Minister because he felt so strongly about the deleterious effect of the road, saying :
"I have now witnessed a further development' of the A12 London to M11 link road as a result of the engineering particulars being revealed. Instead of the promised permanent landscaping along the fringe of the new routes we are now being told that this space is being required for pipes and ducts."
That was supposed to be permanent landscaping. We were promised a little green sward along the edge, but now it will be scrubby old land for the pipes and ducts. Mr. Goldsmith continued :
"Gardens to surviving housing are being further reduced to postage stamp size to house the extra cabling."
Mr. Cohen : He means that the people in those houses will have the smallest gardens imaginable. Yet the Bill will also take away their forest land and they will not even have their own gardens. Postage-stamp size means that their gardens will be minute because the Minister made a cock-up or perhaps deliberately promised landscaping when he knew all the time that the engineering work would require ducts, pipes and cables. He did not want to get into a row at any inquiry with people who have been denied their opportunity to get compensation. The underhand Minister has led them up the garden path, but they will not have much of a garden path left in future because of the Government's approach and their double standards.
If those people are to have such small gardens, there is all the more reason why they should have forest land, parks and open spaces in Leyton as some compensation, but the Minister could not care less.
Mr. Cohen : None of the Conservative Members have caught me out, but my hon. Friend has caught me out because I have not counted the trees. They are lovely green trees, oaks and elms, but my hon. Friend is leading me astray. They are beautiful trees. I have to confess to my hon. Friend that he has caught me out. I once tried to learn about trees and their leaves. I pinned a beautiful chart on my wall, but I am not better at identifying any particular trees.
Mr Skinner : Quite frankly, if we are talking about saving a small forest or part of it, we should know about it. I think that there should be a site visit before any decision is taken to see what will be destroyed. If we had a site visit we would find out what sort of trees are there. For example, in London there are a lot of plane trees. In my part of the world there are many horse chestnut and sweet chestnuts in Clumber park and Sherwood forest. It all depends on the soil. There are many rhododendrons in this part of the world. I would bet diamonds that there are rhododendrons in that part of the forest and they will be taken out.
Mr. Cohen : If I had known of my hon. Friend's interest I would have brushed up on the different trees on the land there. It is a lovely part of the forest to stroll through and I have rambled through it with the Epping forest ramblers. The fresh air is beautiful. Yet that is all to be taken away.
Mr Frank Haynes (Ashfield) : Is my hon. Friend aware that in Nottinghamshire we have many trees, as my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner) said? We have one particular tree called the major oak which is supposed to be connected with Robin Hood. With the growth in industry, slowly but surely the forest is being destroyed. There is a programme connected with Europe to replant that forest. The destruction of forests is shocking and I welcome my hon. Friend's speech on that.
Mr. Haynes : On a point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I merely mentioned the major oak. That is all. I am talking about my hon. Friend's forest. We are replanting the forest in Nottinghamshire, yet Epping Forest is being destroyed.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Further to that point of order, Mr. Deputy Speaker. Would it not be more appropriate for the hon. Member for Leyton (Mr. Cohen) to take his two hon. Friends to the forest at the Green Man roundabout?
Mr. Cohen : I take heed of your ruling, Mr. Deputy Speaker. I would welcome hon. Gentlemen having a look at this part of the forest and, indeed, the whole forest. It is a beautiful amenity for local people. I would welcome a site visit. We need forest preserved in Nottinghamshire just as we do in Leyton. The people of Leyton do not want their forest land taken away.
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover is right about the problem of oaks in Nottingham not being replanted properly, and it is the same in Whipps Cross. I had a go at the Conservatives who run the City of London about the neglect of Epping forest, particularly in my area. One aspect of that neglect is that they have not replanted properly, so the forest is being run down. That is happening in many other areas, for example, where people like Terry Wogan plant trees for tax benefits. Areas of natural woodland are beng neglected.
Column 92I am sure that in Nottinghamshire areas are being run down because the Government are too mean to put up the money for the National Trust and Nature Conservancy Council to replant properly for the future. That is a tragedy. Today we see trees that were planted in the 1850s, not recently planted trees. That is because the Government were too mean to have a proper green policy in the past decade.
Mr. Skinner : Does my hon. Friend recall that a couple of years ago we had a hurricane and that many trees fell on that October night? As a result nearly every hon. Member said how sad it was and that a big replacement programme was needed throughout southern England. The Government had to be pushed and shoved to find sufficient money to assist. Hyde park, Kew gardens and many beautiful places in and around London were affected seriously. Less than a year later the same Government are trying to kid us on that their interest in trees and forests at that time was real. They do not care about little old Leyton and its little patch. It is one thing when something affects their people and another for us. Those of us who want to see the greenery and forest remain in Leyton have perfect justification to say to my hon. Friend, "Carry on with this point."
Mr. Cohen : They did not refund local authorities in full. All sorts of ancillary costs were left to local authorities, such as Waltham Forest, to meet. Funding certainly was not 100 per cent. Moreover, my local authority is subject to rating penalties. For every pound that it spent, the ratepayers spent £1.60 because of the Government's meanness. That was exacerbated by the Government not funding the cost in full.
Mr. Haynes : Where there are trees there are birds, and there is nothing better than getting up in the early morning, particularly in Leyton, and listening to the birds singing. If there are no trees there will be no birds, and that is another reason why my hon. Friend is worried about Leyton.
Mr. Cohen : My hon. Friend makes another genuine point, but I shall not go into it, except to say that I agree that birds, indeed all flora and fauna, are important and should be recognised as important. We should not have tarmac spread all over this green land. The Minister asked for specifics and I have already given him the total acreage, but he failed to respond. I shall continue because I have much more detail. Mr. Goldsmith said :
"An existing girls' school science block annexe will be perched on the edge of the cutting"--
it will right by the side of the road--
"and a local authority is being made to find the cost of double glazing and the perpetual ventilation cost. This ventilation running cost is the same for the local residents too and they get no relief."
That shows how the Minister through the Bill is harming the people of Leyton. Mr. Goldsmith continues :
"Judging by the treatment that the Beazer Enterprise Route has received"--
that was a way of getting at least some cover for the road
Column 93"from the Department where a commuted sum of £4 million has been demanded by the Department"--
that is a scandal ; the Department should be putting up the £4 million --
"for future maintenance of the private housing over the road tunnel, now sadly abandoned as a result"--
sabotaged by the Minister and his Department--
"I now believe this precedent should work in reverse and that tenants who are boxed up by sound insulation and can only breathe in their homes via a fan and, or cooler should receive a substantial capital sum to offset the running cost of such equipment together with its replacement cost at some future date. I will suggest through a copy of this letter to the press that such a sum should be half the value of the house at present market prices."
Mr. Goldsmith then asks the Prime Minister, "Do you agree?" He concludes the letter :
"Of course, if these urban roads were properly designed for the 20th Century with protective lids, such costs would not be necessary."
The Department demanded money up front from the enterprise group and the council for covering the road, but it will not provide the money for ventilation for local people.
I now come to another aspect of the matter. When I spoke to the negotiators and said what I wanted as compensation for this piece of forest being stolen from the people of Leyton by the Department of Transport, I was told by the agents, "What you are asking for is peanuts, Mr. Cohen." They contacted the Department of Transport, which said, "No deal." That was the very last day before the date was set for debating the Bill. They did not come up with any offer before that, presumably under the orders of the Department of Transport, which did not want to make any deals. What they came up with as a replacement--I have the maps here if any hon. Member wants to see them--was what I can only describe as "SLOAP"--surplus land left over after planning. It is what is left over after a building has been put up--perhaps a few metres of land, which may be landlocked and which cannot be used in the planning. It is rubbish. With the Department of Transport it is a slippery slope and when we got on to "SLOAP" the negotiations went downhill all the way.
Some hon. Members may think that the offer of replacement land was genuine because there are six items
I shall summarise what is on the map. The first piece of land was by Eastway near Temple Mills marshalling yard. It was a thin slither of land along the road next to industrial land. I was after a proper replacement for forest land, a decent open space or park land, but all I got was this leftover land which must be the responsibility of the Department of Transport anyway because it is part of its plans. The land is inaccessible to local residents and particularly to pedestrians because it is blocked on one side by the marshalling yard and on the other by industrial land. The nearest residents would have to get over two--not one--2m high barriers on each side of the road to have access to the land. Even if they got past one barrier, managed to get across the road without being run over and climbed the other barrier they would need a pair of skis to get down on to the land. That slither of land is useless.
Column 94The second bit of land was at the back of Trelawn road near the railway station, which is also right next to the link road. That was another narrow sliver of land. Its only use could be as the back gardens of the houses in Trelawn road. The Minister and his Department know that the only common sense use for the land is as the back gardens of the people in that road. It will not be much good to them because it will be right up against the main road, but if it is not used for that, it will just be some leftover land which the Department will be responsible for keeping tidy. It is no compensation for the forest land stolen at the Green Man roundabout. The third bit of "SLOAP" was another thin sliver of land between Grove Green road and the link road. My hon. Friends do not know the area, so I should tell them that Grove Green road and the link road will run parallel to each other, and even after this major motorway project gets under way, Grove Green road will still carry about 1,000 vehicles an hour. It will still be a busy local road, yet the Department wanted to offer as compensation the bit of land between the two. If children were kicking a ball about, it could run on to either of the two main roads and they could get run over. Yet that was supposed to be a replacement for the forest land stolen from the people of Leyton by the Department of Transport.
Mr. Haynes : That is a very interesting point because it raises the question of road safety. The Minister regularly preaches at the Dispatch Box about road safety, yet here the Department is creating a problem for youngsters and adults who could be run down by vehicles on that busy road.
Mr. Cohen : I cannot tell my hon. Friend the exact size, but it was not very large. One expects kids to play football in open spaces, but in this case the right and left wings would be main roads. Not many of those kids would end up playing for Leyton Orient because as soon as they put the ball wide, they would get run over.
The fourth bit of "SLOAP" is even more disgusting. That was near Connaught school, abutting directly on the link road. It was shameful that the Department refused to tunnel at least that small part of the road. They would not tunnel any of the rest of it, and they refused at the very minimum to make this little bit of tunnel by the girls' school. That was a disgraceful aspect of the Minister's policy. Parts of the annexe to the school will be only 2 m away from a busy motorway. How can those pupils study properly? The Minister even refused to put up the money to double- glaze the annexe. If the Department must offer this so-called "SLOAP" by the side of the road, it should at least--the local residents may have something to say about it--place compulsory purchase orders on the few houses between that bit of land and the school. The Department would have to pay proper compensation so that those affected could be properly rehoused. At least the residents would then have more land which could be used for dual purposes--as green land for the school and park land for the community. The area would not have been
Column 95very big even then. I asked the Department to do at least that, but the Department and the Minister were too mean and would not get their act together. The land is useless to the school because there is no proper direct access to it.
In any case, there is a serious housing crisis in my area. If I had time, I would deal with that in greater detail. The council cannot place compulsory purchase orders on the properties and rehouse the occupants to the standard that would be required because it does not have the money or the houses ; it has an enormous waiting list. That option, too, was therefore ruled out by the Department of Transport. The motorway will create enormous problems for the school. The construction of the road is already posing problems. My hon. Friend the Member for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) talked about road safety and the safety of the children. The teachers and the education authority have expressed their concern and anxiety about the children's safety and about the fact that the Department is doing nothing about it. The Department of Education and Science will come up against the problem. It will have to decide what to do about the site--perhaps on a replacement school. It is the same old story--the machinery of Government working for a mean Government : the Department of Transport says that it is the concern of the Department of Education and Science ; the Department of Education and Science says that it is the concern of the Department of Transport and in the meantime those kids are at risk, that school has a rotten environment and the Department of Transport steals our forest land without giving us proper replacement land. That bit of "SLOAP" was also useless. The fifth bit of "SLOAP" was a small triangle of land in Grove Green road, again abutting on the motorway--the M11 link road--at Nos. 481 to 493 Grove Green road. Yet again the Department would not place compulsory purchase orders on the houses and provide generous compensation for the residents, although that would have allowed us to get a small bit of land together. It would still have been very small and not a good environment. The so-called "SLOAP" is a useless set of blobs of land not linked together and adjacent to the road. That is how the Department tried to brush me off, having nicked the forest land in Leyton. As hon. Members can imagine, I was not prepared to put up with that nonsense.
The last bit of "SLOAP" was a small sliver between Fillebrook road and the link road. It is unusable. It has exactly the same drawbacks as the bit of Grove Green road that I described, where the green land is between the two roads. It was right up against the most dangerous and busiest point of the motorway--the Green Man roundabout interchange, with which the Bill deals.
None of that land could be regarded as a proper replacement for the forest land stolen by the Government from the people of Leyton--not by any stretch of the imagination. There should have been a linear park anyway. All these "SLOAPs"--
Column 96my eyes because I had no planning experience, but I am not so easily fooled when it comes to matters affecting my constituency. In the end, the Department of Transport will have to hand over all these pieces of land. They are there because the Department refused the linear park option and carved a motorway through Leyton and Leytonstone, with adverse effects on local residents. These little bits of land have been left over. They will go to the local authority, which will have to manage them. If that does not happen, the Department of Transport will be under enormous pressure to keep the land in good shape. I shall be asking questions in the House and, frankly, the Minister's life and that of his successors will be hell. Of course, the Department will palm off the land. We were not going to be fooled by that nonsense.
Let me draw attention to another letter from the director of the development department, who said :
"My understanding is that you have a meeting with the Department shortly to discuss your objection to the Bill. I understand that the Department intends to draw to your attention the various small open spaces alongside the link road through Leyton--for instance, off Grove Green road, Fillebrook road and Ashbridge road. These total about one hectare--2.4 acres in all. By and large, these are narrow spaces, which are simply undevelopable areas left over from the Department's CPOs."
The letter continues :
"They are of limited visual value only."
One would expect that, given that they are right on top of the motorway. It goes on :
"Few have any recreational potential. These open spaces also include land currently occupied by church land which LRT want for replacement car parking".
The officer showed that the offer from the Department of Transport was rubbish.
The Minister and the House will want to know what I specifically asked for to replace the forest land that had been stolen. I am a pragmatist.
Mr. Skinner : I do not believe that that is being pragmatic. My hon. Friend should reflect on what he has just said. He was negotiating a deal and I do not believe that that was being pragmatic. He was faced with the machinery of state and realised that he could get something for his constituents--a linear park--where kids could play and which would exist for a lifetime and beyond. My hon. Friend did the right thing. The truth is that it is clear that the Government were only interested in stealing the land and they did not want any conclusion to be reached. I do not believe that my hon. Friend was being pragmatic ; he was being sensible. He was working on behalf of his constituents. I hope that my hon. Friend will not use that word, because it has been used by a lot of people just lately. There is a bloke who sits on the Bench near me who has been using it just now.
Mr. Cohen : I appreciate my hon. Friend's kind words. I was trying to do a deal. I had wanted a linear park and the road in a tunnel, but I knew that this was a small Bill, and that there was no way in which my request could be
Column 97granted at this stage in the proceedings and that, therefore, I had to come to a deal. Therefore, what I asked for was limited--just a replacement for that forest land stolen by the Department of Transport, which had given no proper replacement land.
All I wanted was a deal with some quid pro quo in relation to the land stolen--I did not want the whole lot replaced. When I went to the agent for Sherwood and Co.--the agent for the City of London--and described what I wanted, she described it as peanuts in relation to the road scheme. She said that she would take my request back to the Department of Transport to see whether I could get the peanuts that I wanted. I must say that I was rather worried as I thought that I had underbid and that I could have got more for Leyton. For a while I was panic-stricken, but then I thought that I had put in my bid and should stick by it. Then my secretary got a phone call to say that the Department of Transport said "No deal" It would not even offer the peanuts for the forest land stolen from the people of Leyton. That shows just how mean the Government are.
It is right that the House should know what I asked for--that is a genuine request--as a replacement for the forest land stolen--
Mr. Cohen : Yes, it was instead of a linear park, but as a replacement for the forestry land stolen by the Department. Green land is at a premium in my area and I appreciate that it is not easy to get a replacement, but at least I thought that the Department could do something about open spaces and parks as compensation. I said that I had Cann Hall park coming on stream in my area. It is meant to be a play area for six to 12-year-olds, a dual use kickabout area. The officers at the council described it as
"a preliminary scheme for this site which is currently vacant involving a 6 to 12s play area, kick-about area and a sitting-out area, which would cost about £200,000."
I am sure that my hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover would agree that that is peanuts. In any case that park should have been provided for by rate support grant and capital funds. The Government are denying the children in that heavily built up area the opportunity of having a little kickabout.
I also asked about Skeltons lane, which is a play area for the six to 12- year-olds, and about servicing work at City farm. The officer said :
"Improvements at this park, which might involve providing a city farm, a six to 12s play area, and new planting, would cost about £230,000."
My hon. Friend the Member for Bolsover talked about birds, but it is important that the kids in an urban area should also have a look at the animals, and learn about them. We had the chance to set up such a project. It should have been done straight out of the rate support grant and the capital funds which the Government have cut. However, they refused to put up the money. We are talking about absolute peanuts.
Harrow road is a play area for the under-fives. That small site--
Column 98The officer said of Harrow road :
"This small site next to the Acacia nursery could be laid out as an under- fives play area with planting and new fencing. A scheme here would cost about £50,000."
However, we then received a phone call from the Minister saying, "No deal-- we cannot afford it." The Government can afford Trident missiles, but they cannot afford £50,000. What a disgrace that is. That was basically the list for which I asked. I had the forest in mind, because the Government are stealing forest land without giving compensation. Therefore, I wanted something done for the forest in my area. I shall read the list, which might seem long, but is not really. It is a sensible list, detailing what should have been done to the forest if the conservators were doing their jobs properly and if the City of London was really responsible for the forest. It merely has nominal responsibility for it.
I told the officers that there could be improvements to Epping forest land, and amenities in Leyton. First, I asked about improved rubbish clearance, which would be sensible, and would be popular locally. The area gets full of litter because it is heavily used.
Mr. Skinner : My hon. Friend has a good list but there is no need for including rubbish clearance because it is covered already. The Prime Minister and the Secretary of State for the Environment go round clearing up these places. He carries the bag and its "bag it and bin it." Therefore, I do not see why he should worry about that problem.
Mr. Cohen : I appreciate what my hon. Friend says, but I am afraid that they do not reach as far as Leyton and Leytonstone. They would be welcome to come along and clear up the rubbish, as would the Minister who is present. I extend an open invitation to the Minister for Roads and Traffic, whose Department is stealing the forest land, to come along and tidy up the area that is being left. Again, we receive an impassive response from the Minister. He certainly will not put up the small amount of money to do that job properly.
Mr. Peter Bottomley : Perhaps, while the hon. Gentleman, together with his hon. Friends the Members for Ashfield (Mr. Haynes) and for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner), are counting the trees at the Green Man roundabout, which is one of the commitments that have been offered and accepted by the hon. Members, I might come to see what the situation is and, if necessary, help.
May I make it plain that the Government support this part of the Bill, and that 40 per cent. of the cost of the Hackney to M11 link is for environmental projection and improvement. It is plain that it is difficult for the House to consider the details because, in a long speech, the hon. Gentleman has not put them forward. The scheme offers great advantages and much money has been spent on environmental protection. It is also plain that most people believe that the exchange land offered will provide net benefits, both for Leyton and for the forest.