Bromley London Borough Council (Crystal Palace) Bill (By Order)

Budget Resolutions and Economic Situation – in the House of Commons at 9:19 pm on 14th March 1989.

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Order for Second Reading read.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham 9:27 pm, 14th March 1989

I beg to move, That the Bill be now read a Second time.

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.

The 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 near 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.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West 9:38 pm, 14th March 1989

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.

The 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.

Photo of Mr Roger Sims 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.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

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.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

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.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

There are no greater vandals than the Luftwaffe, and obviously one would not have wanted to guide its planes to sensitive spots.

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 the 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 granted; 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 document 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.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook 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?

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

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.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

indicated dissent

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

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.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington

Surely the hon. Gentleman has just made an excellent case for what the London borough of Bromley proposes to do.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

No. That is most certainly not the case.

I come to my last point: what is proposed? If it was a faithful reconstruction of the Crystal Palace, if it was still enshrining the old visions of the Victorians and if it was to be a public building, providing a great addition to the facilities for ordinary people in south-east and south London generally, I would not object to the scheme, other than perhaps to have a go at Bromley borough council about something or other. Because the proposed scheme does not fit the image that I have tried to describe and because it does not follow the traditions of the old Crystal Palace, I object to it.

David Prout, the architectural adviser to the Victorian Society, wrote a good letter in which he said: We are extremely worried about the cynical exploitation of the dream of rebuilding the Crystal Palace in order to promote the use of the site for the construction of a luxury hotel and shopping centre. We wish to condemn the present scheme and emphasise that the lip service paid by the developers to the old Palace should not prejudice opinion in their favour. That is a full answer to the hon. Member for Orpington.

Mr. Prout continued: Architecturally the Crystal Palace was one of the most significant buildings of the 19th century. This building having disappeared, however, it is more important to remember that for the second half of the 19th century the Palace was a place of public entertainment and education, comparable in importance to the South Bank centre in modern London. I can see how the Crystal Palace and the south bank centre are being linked. It is coincidental that the House is considering reconstruction at Crystal Palace and also the proposed development at the south bank around the site of the 1951 exhibition. In neither case is the proposed reconstruction fitting to the traditions of the historic past.

David Prout continued: Rather than a great public building, however, the present plans envisage a typical suburban commercial development with luxury hotel, shopping facilities and leisure centre. This is a wasteful abuse of a location which is a natural site for a public building. It utterly ignores the influential historic role of this nationally important site and the possibility of restoring this role.As if in compensation for this, the developers propose to build a 'new' Crystal Palace. The resulting 'conservation modernism", however, is totally unacceptable. The curtain wall structure with a mirror glass skin is pastiche revivalism of the very worst kind. Not only is it a pastiche architecturally, but it is a fraudulent abuse of the Crystal Palace dream. Perhaps I would not have put it so exotically, but I could not have put it better than David Prout.

I have raised my three sets of objections. I do not like the London borough of Bromley, and never will until it becomes Labour controlled, which I expect it to, very soon. Secondly, I do not think that the proposal fits in with the image and vision or, indeed, the use of the old Crystal Palace. Thirdly, this is further evidence of the abuse of the private Bill procedure. It is for those three reasons that I wanted the Bill to be brought to the Floor of the House for a short debate.

Photo of Mr Ivor Stanbrook Mr Ivor Stanbrook , Orpington 10:04 pm, 14th March 1989

I had not realised that the hon. Member for Newham, North West (Mr. Banks) has a similar background to mine. It is different because we are both Londoners, but I was born north of the Thames and now represent a London constituency south of the Thames. Like the hon. Gentleman, I find that the gracious river separates London in many ways besides the geographical division. Nevertheless, one has great affection for London's institutions, including Crystal Palace.

I remember, possibly unlike the hon. Gentleman, the night when the Crystal Palace was burning. I heard about it on the wireless and went out and saw a red glow in the sky to the south. I thought how terrible it was. But times have moved on and in the past 50 years the site has been cut off from the public and has not been developed for any public or useful purpose. I am beginning to think that this is a repetition of the old story of an area in London that could not be developed because the local authorities could never agree with each other. The London docks are the best example of bureaucratic, official, municipal inertia; no one could agree on the best way forward, so nothing was done for 50 years.

When I asked the hon. Gentleman what the Greater London council had done about Crystal Palace he seemed confident that there was a solution to the problem and he had grandiose ideas about what might have been done. In some ways one sympathises with him: it might have been nice to rebuild Crystal Palace to serve the purposes of its original design, or at least to be of some public benefit.

Unfortunately, those Socialist pipe dreams of local councils and the Greater London council were never achieved and translated into practicality. Like the London docks, the solution depended on the enterprising authority of the London borough of Bromley, which decided to develop the site at last, using funds from the private sector. The splendid London docks development has been rejuvenated in that way with the assistance of private money. Almost everyone, even those wretched borough councils that refused to co-operate with each other, now admit that that splendid progressive development has benefited all of London. I believe that the same will result at Crystal Palace.

Thank goodness for the London borough of Bromley, which has had the good sense, courage and enthusiasm to decide at last on the future development of that site. I hope that it will benefit all Londoners and will realise to some extent the worthy aims and ambitions of the hon. Member for Newham, North West. I welcome the Bill and hope that it goes through rapidly without further amendment.

Photo of Mrs Virginia Bottomley Mrs Virginia Bottomley Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department of Environment) 10:08 pm, 14th March 1989

It may be helpful to the House to give a brief indication of the Government's view of the Bill. It is traditional on consideration of private Bills that the Government take a neutral stance, and this Bill is no exception to that rule. The Government have considered the content of the Bill and have no objection in principle to the powers sought by the London borough of Bromley. We have no points outstanding on the Bill.

It is for the promoters to persuade Parliament that the powers they are seeking are justified. Only one petitioner remains against the Bill for the Select Committee to consider. The Committee will be in a very much better position than we are tonight to examine the issues involved in detail. It will have the added advantage of hearing expert evidence.

I therefore hope that the Bill will be allowed to proceed in the usual way to Committee for this detailed consideration.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

With the leave of the House, I shall respond to one or two of the points made by the hon. Member for Newham, North-West (Mr. Banks). I am delighted that he began by explaining that his main reason for opposing the Bill was his prejudice against the London borough of Bromley. He is an honest Member of the House and we are glad to have that on the record.

The hon. Gentleman departed a little from his normal sense of honesty when he claimed the national sports centre for the GLC. I was present at the opening of the national sports centre, which took place slightly before the GLC came into being.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

I did not say that the GLC constructed the national sports centre; I said that the national sports centre was the main recipient of expenditure devoted by the GLC to the Crystal Palace area. When I chaired the arts and recreation committee, I spent, on behalf of the hon. Gentleman and all other London ratepayers, large amounts of money, as I said, without any guilt, on upgrading and investing in the national sports centre. One can still see the result of that work around us today.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I am delighted that money was poured into the national sports centre. I am slightly less pleased because perhaps the hon. Gentleman, certainly some of his colleagues, removed me from the management committee at that time. No doubt the money would have been spent even more wisely if that had not happened.

I was fascinated by the hon. Gentleman's description of the splendid public building that would have emerged on the site if only the south bank regime had remained in power in London for another mere 50 years. However, there were 20 years when the GLC had control of that site. I am sure that the hon. Gentleman had some fascinating plans in his fascinating mind, but, during those 20 years he did not share those thoughts on the development of Crystal Palace with me, my constituents or the local inhabitants in any way. Since no scheme was produced by the hon. Gentleman, it is not surprising that the new scheme has been greeted with enthusiasm.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the concerts. They gave a great deal of pleasure to many people but they also caused some aggravation. By no means all my constituents were enthusiastic supporters. Financial problems have arisen and there are disputes over the contracts. Since legal action is pending, it would not be appropriate for me to go into those matters in detail. However, I hope that in future appropriate open-air concerts will be held on the site once again.

The hon. Gentleman referred to the somewhat muted opposition from Lambeth council. It has not petitioned against the Bill. After its initial objections, it did not follow up those matters with the council, but I believe that its points about traffic management and parking problems have been dealt with.

The hon. Gentleman's main point was the suggestion that the London borough of Bromley was using this procedure because it wished to short-circuit the normal planning procedures. That is not the case. The private Bill procedure must be used because the site is governed and controlled by a private measure. To go outside the use of the site in terms of that measure, another private Bill is required.

Photo of Mr Tony Banks Mr Tony Banks , Newham North West

The proposal before us tonight could not proceed under Bromley's borough plan, which was adopted in 1985. I agree that Bromley must come to Parliament with a new Bill if it wishes to change the original measure. The 1985 plan took into account the original measure, and under those circumstances the borough is, in effect, getting round both procedures.

Photo of Mr Philip Goodhart Mr Philip Goodhart , Beckenham

I am sure that the hon. Gentleman would not argue that once a plan has been produced it can never be changed. We have procedures for changing a plan, and those procedures have been followed in this case.

The widest consultation took place. About 5,000 people locally were circulated, meetings were held and the overwhelming view of those consulted was that the plan should proceed. I hope that the House will support this legislation.

Question put and agreed to.

Bill read a Second time and committed.