Select Committee on London Local Authorities Bill Minutes of Evidence

Evidence Session (Sections 2300-2399)


21 MARCH 2006

 2300. If that were suggested now, that such a body be resurrected or started up afresh ---?

(Mr Palin) I think it absolutely must be; there is no question about it.

 2301. And what part would the museum, do you think, take in that?

(Mr Palin) The museum would obviously like to play a part, bearing in mind our other commitments, but we would certainly like to take a role within such an organisation.

 2302. Have you seen the letter exhibited by Mr Stanton which I can take you to if necessary? It is headed, "4Holborn Business Improvement District". It is right at the back.

(Mr Palin) Yes, I have seen this letter.

 2303. Are you aware of this organisation?

(Mr Palin) I am aware of the organisation.

 2304. Have you had any connection with it as a museum?

(Mr Palin) We were a member of Holborn Business Partnership until I received Martin Stanton's proof of evidence and I brought this letter to the attention of our director and we resigned immediately. We were not aware that the Holborn Business Partnership supported the use of the Fields in this way.

 2305. In terms of this Bill and in particular clause 112, were you consulted as a body? Did you receive any of the proposals?

(Mr Palin) No. We simply received notification.

 2306. CHAIRMAN: From whom did you receive notification, Mr Palin?

(Mr Palin) From Sharpe Pritchard, and I believe that is a statutory requirement.

 2307. MISS STADDON: Mr Palin, please would you turn to ICM3? It is a bundle, is it not, of letters and communications from various heritage bodies addressed to yourself?

(Mr Palin) It is indeed.

 2308. The first one at page 1, numbered at the bottom centre, is a letter, is it not, from English Heritage to you of 16 January 2006?

(Mr Palin) It is.

 2309. And it refers on the first page to the Fields being included in the English Heritage register at grade II?

(Mr Palin) That is right.

 2310. Over the page at page 2, in the penultimate line, there is a reference, is there not, to the listed buildings in Lincoln's Inn Fields including your museum buildings at 12, 13 and 14 at grade II?

(Mr Palin) That is correct.

 2311. And then setting out the history and the statutory and planning background, and concluding in paragraph 8 on page 6 with "English Heritage's objections to Clause 112"?

(Mr Palin) That is right.

 2312. Particularly paragraph 8.2, "As the local planning authority, the London Borough of Camden would be required to consider applications for planning permission … in the light of national and local policies for the protection of the historic environment", and 8.3, "The view of English Heritage is that, irrespective of the specific protection given to Lincoln's Inn Fields by the three Acts of Parliament mentioned above, the proposal to erect fencing to exclude the general public from the centre of the public gardens … and to erect temporary buildings as proposed in Clause 112 would be contrary to national planning policy and to local policy … and that the presumption would be that planning permission would be refused."

(Mr Palin) That is right.

 2313. Indeed, over the page, at paragraph 8.4, "… the principal concern of English Heritage is that Clause 112 … would reduce the protection given specifically to the amenities of Lincoln's Inn Fields by [the Act so mentioned] and threaten the protection given to some 461 squares and similar open spaces … by the London Squares Preservation Act, 1931." Then they exhibit some material in relation to that. A further letter, also addressed to yourself, is at pages 12 and 13. At paragraph one they are writing to you that "for various reasons including problems of timing and staffing we are regrettably unable to petition in person against Clause 112 … Nevertheless, the threat to Lincoln's Inn Fields is a matter about which English Heritage is very concerned, and the matter was debated at a meeting of the Historic Parks and Gardens Panel of English Heritage on 15 June 2005, when it was agreed that English Heritage should object to Clause 112." They invite you to accept the letter to which we have just referred as an expression of their concerns and to include it in your evidence as you feel fit. The letter concludes, "Information 1995 the London Historic Parks and Gardens Trust chose London Squares as the subject of the first of its annual conferences: London Squares: A Forum on the Past, Present and Future of London's Squares, which brought together under the chairmanship of Dudley Fishburn MP a number of bodies …". Finally, on page 13 there is a reference, is there not, to the launching of English Heritage's "A Campaign for London Squares, whereby English Heritage determined to drive forward a co-ordinated programme of enhancement for London's squares and to improve public access to them, …".

(Mr Palin) That is right.

 2314. You exhibit, do you not, at page 26 a letter from the Garden History Society to yourself of 10 March 2006? I respectfully ask the committee to glance through and read the document to themselves it might be quicker than myself or Mr Palin reading it out. There is a reference to the society being a statutory consultee and we do have the material whence that derives. I do not think it has been handed round yet. It is conceded, I am grateful, but we might hand it in in any event for completeness as the genesis of the statutory consultation principle. At page 33 we have the letter from the Ancient Monuments Society, a statutory consultee on applications for listed building consent, again expressing extreme concern, and there is a new letter, Mr Palin, is there not, of 16 March 2006, which again I believe we have not handed in yet but we will do so now, from the Society for the Protection of Ancient Buildings (Same handed).

 2315. CHAIRMAN: I take it these documents all tend in the same general direction, do they, Miss Staddon?

 2316. MISS STADDON: Indeed they do, My Lord Chairman.

Cross-examined by MR CLARKSON

 2317. MR CLARKSON: My Lord Chairman, I am only going to cross-examine on two short matters. I hope that I will not be criticised for being too short.

 2318. CHAIRMAN: We shall not criticise you, Mr Clarkson.

 2319. MR CLARKSON: There is a danger of repetition if I put all the points to this witness. The first heading I want to deal with is the correspondence you have just brought forward, Mr Palin. This is written to you, is it not?

(Mr Palin) It is indeed.

 2320. All of this correspondence?

(Mr Palin) Yes, it is.

 2321. And copied on page 7 to the Open Spaces Society, the Garden History Society, the London Parks and Gardens Trust and Ms Gibson. Why?

(Mr Palin) Because those are the societies and parties who are concerned by this matter and I have added Ms Jill Gibson's name to that because she had also been in touch, I believe, with English Heritage and was an interested party.

 2322. Were those the parties that had solicited these letters?

(Mr Palin) I wrote to the Garden History Society, the London Parks and Gardens Trust. The Open Spaces Society were already a Petitioner and Ms Jill Gibson, as you know, has been concerned in this matter since the beginning.

 2323. Let us get a feel at 31 of, for example, the Historic Gardens Foundation.

(Mr Palin) Can I ask for that letter to be disregarded? A misunderstanding arising from a telephone conversation has led me to believe that these are permanent structures. I think that was a mis-translation of "solid structures" and I would ask for that letter to be disregarded.

 2324. You are cross-examining yourself, Mr Palin. So you withdraw that, do you?

(Mr Palin) I withdraw that letter.

 2325. So the Historic Gardens Foundation we cannot rely on as being against you? Another QC getting it wrong. At page 33 it is the same again, is it not? The Ancient Monuments Society are saying "from an historic public open space into in effect a commercial arena"?

(Mr Palin) That is one way of putting what Camden propose to do.

 2326. Is that your understanding?

(Mr Palin) There is certainly an argument that using a historic garden square for, well, we are now talking about 35 events a year turns it into a commercial arena.

 2327. So that is your understanding on balance, that 35 events is a commercial arena, is it?

(Mr Palin) I think that is one way of putting it.

 2328. Is that you have put to English Heritage in your telephone conversations?

(Mr Palin) No, it was not. I did not use those words. That was purely the interpretation made by Matthew Saunders at the Ancient Monuments Society.

 2329. Moving on from there to another document, which is page 180 of the ICM bundle, an this is the second heading of the two that I propose to deal with, and I can summarise my approach: this is hyperbole, is it not, exaggeration?

(Mr Palin) That is your interpretation. I would not agree with you.

 2330. Let us take it in stages. You understand, do you not, that there will be access maintained to the grassed areas?

(Mr Palin) Yes, and I have clearly stated that sometimes because of the weather the grass areas cannot be used if you live in a wet country and therefore we need to resort to hard areas of the park.

 2331. If you go over two pages, the last paragraph on page 182, "I would like to see a total ban on marquees, at least in the grassy areas of the park"? Why did you not say that then?

(Mr Palin) At that stage, of course, we were trying to get what we possibly could. At this stage we did not realise that Camden were acting illegally and we were trying to make the best of an unsatisfactory situation.

 2332. You did not say, did you, that children, as Ms Monahan says on page 180, "may need to cancel their visit altogether"?

(Mr Palin) At that stage I had not had a detailed conversation with Jane Monahan about this matter. She as the Children's Education Officer is the one who runs the children's events and this was her interpretation of the consequences should clause 112 - and this is important; my first letter had nothing to do with clause 112 - be allowed.

 2333. Let us look at the bullet points: "No temporary structure should be permitted at any time of the year in Lincoln's Inn Fields because they greatly reduce the museum's ability to provide a year-round school visit service". How?

(Mr Palin) Simply because we want as varied and as enjoyable an education programme as possible. Open space is vital to this. If open space is restricted that greatly reduces the museum's ability to provide an all-year-round school visit service.

 2334. But the open space, the grassed areas, is going to be maintained, is it not?

(Mr Palin) But we have already gone over this. The grassed areas are one part of the public park. Another part, an extensive part, is the hardened area with the bandstand which can be used in inclement weather.

 2335. "Exclude schools which cannot afford to provide their own transport, for example all Camden Council schools", and then, following on, "exclude schools which come from any distance". How is clause 112 achieving that?

(Mr Palin) On the specific points, our Children's Education Officer should be here to answer them, but what she is simply saying is that it makes a visit to the Soane Museum much less attractive and it makes dealing with large parties of children, particularly at the moment before we have our new education unit, more difficult and that can lead to exclusion.

 2336. Why does it affect the transport?

(Mr Palin) I do not know what she means specifically by "their own transport", but what I can say is simply that they will choose to go elsewhere rather than come to the Fields.

 2337. "Limit the possibilities for after-school, weekend and holiday activities at the museum for children and families". Is that the same point that you have made already in bullet point one?

(Mr Palin) She is talking about families as well as children, not simply an all-round school service, so we are talking about a much wider range of activities involving a wider range of parties.

 2338. "Severely damage the setting of a Grade 1 listed building when viewed from within the museum …".

(Mr Palin) I do not think there is any doubt about that whatsoever.

 2339. And that is, in the balance, the question of whether a marquee or whatever is seen from the building for 35 days a year; is that right?

(Mr Palin) That is correct.

 2340. "Destroy Soane's key concept of a house/museum 'frozen in time'". How?

(Mr Palin) That relates to the previous point. The museum has been unchanged since its foundation in 1837. The Fields have remained an uncompromised open space since that time, and it is something which is very important to get across to children when they understand the concept of history, of urban development, to be able to put the museum in its context, and if that is eroded in any way it destroys Soane's concept of a museum "frozen in time".

 2341. Yes, but it is not a museum alongside a Lincoln's Inn Fields that has not been changed since the Soane house/museum, is it? Tennis courts.

(Mr Palin) It has remained an uncompromised open space since that period.

 2342. Tennis courts have come forward, have they not?

(Mr Palin) Yes, but tennis courts are a public amenity and part of that open space and it is a sympathetic addition.

 2343. But the simple point is that Lincoln's Inn Fields themselves have changed alongside the Soane Museum, have they not?

(Mr Palin) I think they have changed very little.

 2344. MR CLARKSON: That is all I have. Thank you.

 2345. CHAIRMAN: Do you want to re-examine, Miss Staddon?

 2346. MISS STADDON: Unless the committee has any points, no.

 2347. CHAIRMAN: Right. Thank you very much, Mr Palin.

The witness withdrew

 2348. I am thinking that it might be sensible to break for lunch now and resume correspondingly ten minutes earlier than we would otherwise have done if that is convenient to everybody, and I assume, Miss Staddon, that you will call your next witness at that point.

 2349. MISS STADDON: Indeed, My Lord Chairman.

After a short adjournment

 2350. CHAIRMAN: Are you ready to resume?

 2351. MISS STADDON: I am, thank you.


 2352. MISS STADDON: I call Walter Michael Hand please. Your name is Walter Michael Hand?

(Mr Hand) It is.

 2353. You are Facilities Manager at the Royal College of Surgeons?

(Mr Hand) I am.

 2354. They are at 35 - 43 Lincoln's Inn Fields?

(Mr Hand) Correct.

 2355. And you have worked there since 19 January 2001?

(Mr Hand) Yes.

 2356. Could you have open your proof of evidence please, and your exhibits; you have those?

(Mr Hand) I have those as well.

 2357. It is divider 4 of the exhibits bundle. As Facilities Manager your responsibilities include security, managing the conference and meeting space and managing the College hotel; is that correct?

(Mr Hand) Correct.

 2358. Have you recently read through your proof?

(Mr Hand) I have.

 2359. And is it correct and are you happy with it?

(Mr Hand) Yes, thank you.

 2360. And are you content that that should stand as evidence, together with anything else you might say today?

(Mr Hand) Indeed.

 2361. If you could turn in your proof to paragraphs 4, 5, 6 and 7 and just briefly outline to the Committee please the nature the accommodation and the make-up of your accommodation?

(Mr Hand) The College although one building is split into two. One part of it is an hotel. The origin of it is cheap accommodation for students that used to come to the College and found London very very pricy. Over the years that has changed somewhat and part of the accommodation is now the President's lodge, part of it is the Dean's accommodation, and part of it is a permanent residence for the porter who lives on the site.

 2362. I think you say all three of the flats, the accommodation for your officers, if I can call it that, face the park?

(Mr Hand) They do.

 2363. And in the hotel you have 43 bedrooms of which 20 face the park?

(Mr Hand) That is correct.

 2364. And nine are on the east side of the College?

(Mr Hand) Yes.

 2365. Could you please turn in your appendices in divider four to page 152 which is a plan of your accommodation, is that right, with the red or pink colour indicating the bedrooms?

(Mr Hand) That is correct.

 2366. And the green or bluey colour wash indicating conference rooms?

(Mr Hand) Correct.

 2367. From paragraph 8 onwards you turn to consider the events in marquees taking place in the Fields. Can you briefly explain what happened and what effect that had on yourself?

(Mr Hand) In my first year there there was an event that took place in the summer. It was a very loud event. When I arrived at work one morning I had complaints from a number of residents who had been staying in the hotel and also the College President who was extremely incensed at the noise that had gone on extremely late. That particular event also had the emptying of bottle skips at 3 o'clock in the morning which was extremely noisy and woke everyone up once everything had quietened down again.

 2368. And what happened?

(Mr Hand) He asked me to contact the Council. I did so and they were extremely apologetic. They came along and put sound equipment in the porter's flat to listen to the next night's event and ascertain the noise levels. They did stop the collection of skips. I will say that was a one-off event. The residents there were compensated in some way, either by moving them to the rear of the College if they were staying over or by reducing their room rate somewhat.

 2369. As a result of what you said what happened in the future?

(Mr Hand) One of the agreements I had with Camden was that any future events they would advise us beforehand so that we could try and warn people who were coming to stay at the College. They were not able to stop the noise to any great extent and even though it was being monitored there was still a lot of noise. The main problem with the noise was the base. A receptionist working downstairs could feel it coming through the floor and could see her monitor moving and certainly you could hear it at the rear of the building as well.

 2370. When you say her monitor?

(Mr Hand) Her computer screen. She would be working there and she could feel it bouncing up and down.

 2371. Apart from the noise is there anything else you would like to say about the events in the marquees?

(Mr Hand) They are very, very close to the College. When you had the walk around the other day I tried to give the impression of how close the bedrooms are to the events themselves. The last one we had there had a funfair on the grass standing immediately outside of those rooms that I showed you. So even without those, even with just a marquee, even with noise limitations in there they are still very, very close to the College and my aim of today is to try and prevent those from reoccurring. I understand that the base will be stopped by having sound dampening of some sort. I understand that the speakers will be facing each other and therefore will cancel each other out but I cannot believe that that will stop noise coming into our bedrooms.

 2372. Thank you. If you could continue in your appendices in your exhibits, after page 152, your plan, you have some fine photographs of the Fields adjacent, is that correct, to your premises?

(Mr Hand) Yes, it was to give an impression of where the College is in relation to the Fields. On the walk round we got a better idea of that.

 2373. Thank you, yes, and the following page, 154 onwards, is it correct you have statements from the officers you have mentioned of the College?

(Mr Hand) Correct, the Presidents, the Deans and the College porter.

 2374. Page 154, the President, Sir Barry Jackson 1998 to 2001. That is entirely before your time; is that correct?

(Mr Hand) No, he was there for that first summer event.

 2375. Thank you. Over the page, 155 ---

(Mr Hand) Sorry to interrupt you but he is also the gentleman that put the most pressure on me initially to get things sorted. He actually went out there at night-time sometime around midnight and he walked into the event and asked them to stop all the noise. He was the most incensed of everyone.

 2376. BARONESS O'CAITHAIN: Did they?

(Mr Hand) No. Can I also say that yesterday some evidence was given that we had an agreement with Fortesqueue's. What that agreement consisted of was me complaining to Camden about the fact the a marquee had suddenly appeared in the Fields and could they left us have a programme of events. Fortesqueue's came over to give us a programme of events and also provided us with a mobile phone number for the night porter to contact should things get too noisy, but that was the extent of the agreement we had with Fortesqueue's.

 2377. MISS STADDON: Thank you. Page 155, that is Sir Peter Morris, the President during your period but finishing in 2004?

(Mr Hand) Yes, he had the most events to contend with.

 2378. Then 156, Professor John Lowry, who was the Dean 2001-2004 in the same period; is that correct?

(Mr Hand) That is correct.

 2379. Page 157, the porter began in 2001 and continues in office today?

(Mr Hand) Yes, correct.

 2380. MISS STADDON: Thank you. Would you just wait there please, Mr Hand.

Cross-examined by MR CLARKSON

 2381. MR CLARKSON: I am going to ask my very few questions. For local knowledge please, the Committee will have seen in the 1894 Act the recital on page 33, that it is for these purposes: "For the protection of owners lessees and occupiers of the houses in Lincoln's Inn Fields and of the Society of Lincoln's Inn respectively the following provisions shall have effect ..." How many houses are there within your knowledge in Lincoln's Inn Fields?

(Mr Hand) The whole square?

 2382. Yes.

(Mr Hand) I honestly could not tell you.

 2383. There is none.

(Mr Hand) What can I say? Our building is not a house but we have people sleeping there.

 2384. There are no houses, are there? They have all been converted into offices?

(Mr Hand) True, I accept that.

 2385. Events: the Royal College of Surgeons like Lincoln's Inn and others are on the events circuit, so to speak, are you not?

(Mr Hand) Yes.

 2386. And you can have coming in and out some 500 people for a reception in the evening and 350 for a dinner?

(Mr Hand) Not at any one time. Our fire licence only allows us to have 500 at any one time on the ground floor. A maximum of 500.

 2387. Exactly, a maximum of 500. Is there any restriction on when they can leave?

(Mr Hand) No. I would say there is a practical restriction. The events that we have at the College are perhaps six musical events during the year, that is to say where any are involved with dancing. The majority of the receptions will be lectures, will be courses that are running and therefore they will all be finished by roughly nine or ten o'clock at night. The later events - we have about half a dozen a year - will finish at either 11 or midnight.

 2388. Those are the ones with dancing and music, are they?

(Mr Hand) We would normally try and get an extension to 12 o'clock for the ones with dancing. We would also sell them the hotel accommodation incidentally, making sure that the complaints are limited.

 2389. The complaints are captive?

(Mr Hand) Absolutely.

 2390. MR CLARKSON: I am not going to go into other matters because I have dealt with them with other witnesses so on the usual basis I will sit down.


 2391. CHAIRMAN: Does the Committee have any questions?

(Mr Hand) Can I just say one thing. I was a director of LIFA so if anyone has got any questions towards the end of its life I can tell you a brief bit about that, if that is of interest.

 2392. CHAIRMAN: That would be very useful.

(Mr Hand) When I joined the College I was asked by my boss to try and contact LIFA because the College had lost contact with them, and I went to their first meeting on 5 June 2001. At that meeting, that was the first time they mentioned about the possibility of LIFA winding up. They were very short of directors so they asked me to join so the following month there was an AGM at which I was elected a director, but we only met on a couple more occasions after that. The discussions that I remember about events was that they were pretty much a necessary evil and not things that we had much influence over although there was one attempt when LIFA tried to stop a liquor being applied for by Fortesqueue's but we failed in that. The resolution to wind up was made on 25 November 2003. That was following letters that each of the directors received from Companies House stating if we did not submit the accounts for the preceding year we would all be liable to a £5,000 fine, which encouraged LIFA to get on with things. And therefore the winding up was completed on 19 July 2004. The total funds that we had in stock were £25,190; the expenses of winding up were about £18,000 and therefore £7,000 remained and given to the Soane's Museum. The reason as was mentioned before was it is the one that had the closest links to the aims and objectives of the charity that LIFA was.

 2393. CHAIRMAN: And was itself a charitable foundation?

(Mr Hand) Yes.

 2394. LORD FAULKNER OF WORCESTER: We have received representations from Miss Gibson who made the point that the funds were collected for the benefit of the gardens?

(Mr Hand) Yes, the reason (it was also mentioned at the very first meeting) that they wanted to wind up LIFA was that they said it had achieved all its aims, those being mainly to get the railings put up, to get the trees planted, and to get the vagrants out of the area.

 2395. CHAIRMAN: We have had evidence to that effect. Thank you.

(Mr Hand) One of the things that was said was that although LIFA was wound up as a charity it could still continue as an association. However, at these meetings it was always the same four or five people that turned up. I cannot even tell you whether or not the minutes were sent round to all the members. Theoretically there were about 43 members in the area and I cannot even promise that the minutes were sent out to everyone. I can also say that no funds were collected for LIFA since 1998. They never required any membership funds from anyone since 1998.

 2396. CHAIRMAN: Do you wish to re-examine?

Re-examined by MISS STADDON

 2397. MISS STADDON: One further question. Could you take up the bundle containing ICM1, ICM2 and ICM3. If I can ask you in general terms and then specifically. ICM1, page one, is a copy of a repeals notice directed to the Honourable Society of Lincoln's Inn. Has the Royal College of Surgeons received any such notice, to your knowledge?

(Mr Hand) We certainly received a notice, actually it is very similar, I would say we received it.

 2398. And 36 and 48 in the same divider, 36 being addressed to yourselves in any event?

(Mr Hand) Yes.

 2399. And 48, I believe, is a draft of what was going to be sent around?

(Mr Hand) Yes that looks like it.

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