'For the protection of the local community, the tourist industry, the wider community and the public interest the following provisions shall apply and have effect—
Let me apologise in advance: I shall probably have to speak for slightly longer than I am accustomed to. Normally, I make a point of speaking briefly, but I feel that the case should be put as fully as possible and placed on record, so that the House of Lords considers the Bill seriously.
A few things have changed since Second Reading last October. I said then that some of the most significant opposition to the Jubilee line extension was coming from the Waterloo area. As I made clear, however, despite the principled objections that some people advanced to the priority given to that line, a Bill to introduce it had already been decided on, and it was therefore necessary to support the construction of the extension—and to require the construction to take place as quickly as possible, for the benefit of all Londoners.
I do not think that anyone living in the Waterloo area opposes the Bill as such. What no one seems to have taken into account—although some, including London Underground, have given it more consideration than others—is the effect on the Waterloo area and, in particular, the loss of a unique and special open space in Jubilee gardens.
Since last October, Jubilee gardens has been declared metropolitan open land—which means, in effect, that it is a green belt. That status will come into effect when the new borough plan is approved next year. It was supported by the London Planning Advisory Committee—a statutory body—by the Royal Fine Art Commission and by a number of other bodies.
I may not always be regarded as especially knowledgeable about the arts, but I quote from the Royal Fine Art Commission, which says in its letter:
the Commission also wishes to encourage London Underground to move the work site required for the Jubilee Line extension back to the southern end of the site.
I shall explain the details in a moment.
There has been another change. The Queen's Walk Park Society now has planning permission for the creation of an extended park. That, too, has been supported by the Royal Fine Art Commission, which wrote to the London borough of Lambeth suggesting that this should happen.
The Department of the Environment's own planning guidance note asked boroughs to identify areas of open
space with a view to designating them metropolitan open land. The note clearly stated the necessary criteria. First, the area should
contribute to the physical structure or character of London by providing attractive breaks in the built up area".
Surely Jubilee gardens, which is just across the river, falls precisely within that definition.
Secondly, the area should
include open air facilities (especially for leisure, recreation and sport) for the people of the whole or part of London".
The area marks the end point of the London marathon. Unfortunately, since the London residuary body assumed responsibility, it has been less and less involved in the many riverside events in which thousands of Londoners have been able to participate in the past.
Thirdly, the area should
contain features or landscape of historic, recreational, nature conservation or scientific interest worthy of protection on account of their value nationally or to the whole or part of London. The presumption against development in the Green Belt applies equally to metropolitan open land.
Jubilee gardens has now been defined as metropolitan open land, following the Department's expressed wish that we should identify such sites.
I am sorry that the Minister for Local Government and Inner Cities is not present. I am not accusing him of staying away deliberately, but I feel that the problem of Jubilee gardens, Waterloo and the underground system is very much in the hands of the Department of the Environment. At this stage, I am not blaming the Department, which wants to see the line built as quickly as possible. The argument of those who want to protect Jubilee gardens is that that can be done without ruining the gardens.
It is not a case of Waterloo residents taking a NIMBY attitude and not wanting any development—they have already seen enormous changes in Waterloo in the form of developments that have affected the whole area, and which have not necessarily been beneficial. One of the arguments made for the Bill, to placate the people of Waterloo, is that it will benefit them—that the new local tube station to be built at Southwark would provide them with a more convenient alternative to Waterloo station. However, many residents already use Waterloo. That facility already exists.
In common with the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes), who supports me on this issue, I do not oppose the extension or the station at Southwark, but the people of Waterloo have already seen the channel tunnel terminus steamrollered through. No matter how hard British Rail tried to minimise the chaos that work brought to the area, that was difficult to achieve. Work on the Waterloo viaduct has also affected local residents, and the construction of Southwark station will affect the residents of Roupell street and Hatfields.
Earlier this year, I received this letter from one of my constituents:
I live in a street that has been designated as forming the route of the Channel tunnel into Waterloo station. My street has become a building site with holes and heavy machinery everywhere. The pavement on both sides of the road is being dug up, so that my wife and two children have to walk down the middle of an increasingly busy road. This is a disgrace. British Rail have managed to get my narrow street, normally one-way traffic, designated two-way to suit their purposes, and I am genuinely frightened for the safety of my and other local children.
At least that resident and others have somewhere relatively near—Jubilee gardens—where their children can play, and where their families can have some respite from the chaos in that area. But that alternative will no longer be available if London Underground uses that site.
A sequence of planning decisions in the Waterloo area have gradually eroded the area of free space while increasing traffic and the other problems that confront an inner city area when large new office blocks are built. The threatened development of the south bank may look very pretty on the drawing board, but it will create huge problems for residents during its construction. There are also new office blocks planned for Waterloo road, Hercules road and Baylis road. Every road in the Waterloo area is being affected in one way or another. Residents now risk their last piece of green space by the river being turned into what can only be described as an urban slag heap for six years—perhaps less—and that is something that they will fight to the very end.
From the plan—it is a pity that right hon. and hon. Members cannot all have a copy—it is clear that London Underground wanted to take the spoil from the site that we want it to have. There is no disagreement between me and other hon. Members who support the clause and London Underground over that point. The project manager, Russell Black, may hate to be quoted again, but he clearly said that, if the development of county hall did not go ahead, London Underground would prefer that site, which would be in the public interest. None of the calculations has been challenged, and they show that it would cost London Underground £1 million less to use that site. Such a saving may be tiny in comparison with the overall budget, but it would be another advantage of locating the spoil site right up against county hall.
That site, which is currently used as a small car park, takes only a tiny part of Jubilee gardens. The London residuary body did not want that site to be used because it wished to protect its development plans, at the time when the County Hall Development Group was presenting grandiose proposals to build a hotel, offices, and houses with private gardens—which would also have encroached on Jubilee gardens. That scheme went the rounds of public consultation, but eventually the development company went into liquidation. That is the current terminology, but perhaps "bankruptcy" would be a better word.
Unless any right hon. or hon. Member has more up-to-date information, my understanding is that no one has put in another bid for county hall, and that it is owned only by the LRB, which is a public body. I understand also that no planning permission has been granted because the last public inquiry has not yet reported. I presume that the inspector's report is now with the Secretary of State for the Environment.
It was clear from the public inquiry that people did not want the county hall site to be developed into a hotel. Also, my own party and the Liberal Democrats want county hall to be returned to public use at some time—and that commitment will be realised when there is next a Labour Government.
Meanwhile, if the Secretary of State sees fit to grant planning permission for such a horrendous development, could he not do so on condition that for the first five years the developers allow London Underground access to the site? That seems perfectly reasonable. I hope that the inspector put that option to the Secretary of State for the Environment, and, if so, that will be considered.
The London residuary body managed to get a protection clause accepted at Committee stage. It not only says, "No way will anyone be allowed near our little bit of county hall, because we want that for our development," but it fails to protect the well-designed playground in the middle of Jubilee gardens—which, despite London Underground's willingness to relocate it, would otherwise be lost. That is why I am keen to see that protection clause deleted—if not today, when the Bill is considered in another place. As soon as the LRB sells the site, the new owner will have the right to get rid of the playground. We need to insert clauses into the Bill to bind a future developer, should there be one, to allowing London Underground access to the site.
The key to the whole issue is money. London Underground would save £1 million by moving to the site next to county hall. The LRB says that if it is not allowed access to the site for five years it cannot sell county hall for as much money and it would therefore sue London Underground—it said it would take London Underground to the cleaners—for between £50 million and £100 million.
The building is on sale for £150 million. The LRB is saying that it has a £1 billion scheme, and that if it does not have access to that site it cannot build a car park for 100 cars. I remind the House that at present there is no buyer for county hall. Even if all went well—putting aside questions of a general election, planning permission, the economy and the fact that there are not many developers wanting to buy county hall—no one could live in that riverside building for at least five years. Indeed, the original developers said that no one could live there for at least four years from the day they had access to the site.
That time scale would fit very neatly with the time scale envisaged in the Bill—which is likely to receive Royal Assent early next year—of four and a half years. Indeed, with no prospective buyers, the redevelopment of county hall may be some time away, if it ever happens. As no developer is currently interested in county hall, none of the original agreements, such as access to Jubilee gardens, can be upheld.
The question of compensation needs careful consideration. I do not believe the figures suggested by the LRB; it has not done its homework. Indeed, it appears that the Department of the Environment has not really considered the matter. I may be naive, but I feel that as the Department of the Environment, the Department of Transport and the LRB are public bodies, we are merely talking about the passing of money from one public body to another. It is the LRB's argument that, under our proposal, it would obtain less money for county hall, which would be a cost to the public purse. I do not think that that cost, which is only a book-keeping exercise, would be as high as the LRB maintains—but in any case, we must weigh up that cost against the cost of the loss of a valuable amenity.
I have already stressed the difficulties for the people of Waterloo, but it goes further than that. Jubilee gardens is one of the last remaining green riverside sites in London. The loss of such a valuable amenity has not been properly considered—and that is without taking into account the saving of £1 million for London Underground. We must remember that it was Londoners who paid for county hall and Jubilee gardens. If there is to be a small loss to the public purse so that Jubilee gardens can be kept in public use for six years, I consider that price to be well worth paying.
There were two inquiries into the future of county hall, and I remind the House that the proposed developers at that time no longer exist. Of course, the LRB says that whoever buys county hall will have to adhere exactly to the plans of the original developer. I have not met many developers, but I have yet to meet one—or even an architect—who takes over a project and does not want to make changes. At the inquiries, it was stated that the housing aspect of the county hall development was not financially essential to the scheme. That shows that the LRB, if it gets planning permission, could go ahead with the hotel and the office projects, and not lose any money.
Everyone involved in the issue—London Underground, the Department of Transport, the people of Waterloo, the Waterloo community development group, the River Thames Society, the Open Spaces Society, the London River Authority and the Ramblers Association —have bent over backwards to be helpful. The only body to come out of the mess really badly is the LRB—yet it is a public body which is supposed to be acting in the interests of Londoners. It is appalling even to think of allowing Jubilee gardens to be bulldozed simply because Government bodies cannot get together to find a solution.
I am grateful to the Minister for coming recently to look at the site that we support and I am sure that he would agree that all logic and sense point to that being the best site for London Underground. Hon. Members are meant to be working for the interests of the public, and if we cannot find a solution to the problem we will not meet the expectations of those who elected us. I remember a debate when hon. Members on both sides of the House spent hours complaining that their working conditions and other aspects of their lives at Westminster would not be acceptable if the Bill were passed in its original form because of the works in Westminster. London Underground found a way to ensure that the interests of Members of Parliament were not jeopardised, but the people of Waterloo do not have the same ability as Members of Parliament to lobby, pester and throw power punches.
I urge hon. Members to save Jubilee gardens and thus allow the Bill to proceed as quickly as possible. I have great faith in what will happen in the other place. It will examine wider issues than were considered in the Committee. The Bill will return here in a different form. I hope that this House will adopt a sensible way forward so that petitions will not have to be submitted again. I hope, too, that the Minister will say that he intends to sort something out with the Department of the Environment so that the London residuary body cannot threaten us with a form of blackmail. Public money is involved and the London residuary body is a public body.
I shall listen to what the Minister has to say before deciding whether to press the new clause to a Division. The House has the opportunity to prevent a repetition of some of the appalling things that have happened in the Waterloo area. We must preserve this green space for Londoners and show that Members of Parliament can make a difference when common sense and reality demonstrate what is the right use for the site.
I support what has been said by the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey), who represents the bulk of the Waterloo area. I have an interest in only a small part of it—Southwark and Bermondsey.
I have two simple and straightforward points to make. First—this is a paradox—the Government believe that it is important for the people of London to walk alongside the river in central London. Tomorrow morning, the Secretary of State for the Environment is coming to my constituency to unveil a plaque to commemorate another part of the Jubilee walkway in London bridge city, just by Tower bridge. Part of the Jubilee walkway passes through Jubilee gardens and goes along that part of the Thames which provides the largest amount of currently available green space adjacent to the river.
In central London—unlike many other European cities —there is very little green space immediately adjacent to the river. One of the great joys of urban life is the conjunction of green space, open space and water. That is why the Serpentine in Hyde park is so popular. Parks are fine, but parks with water are better. A river is wonderful, but a river with adjacent space where it can be enjoyed at leisure is even better.
It would be ridiculous if, due to a set of public policy decisions, the people of London had to suffer an intrusion into the largest pocket of remaining green space in central London that is available for the public to enjoy. To suffer that intrusion for a limited period—although for several years—while the work is done and then to be unable to make the maximum use of that space would be madness. If it is impossible, with all the brains, intelligence, public finance and commitment to the railway line, to reconcile the proper interests of the line and public transport, which I support, with the equally proper interests of the environment for those who live, work and wish to spend their leisure time by the river on the Lambeth-Southwark boundary, just opposite the Palace of Westminster, there is something wrong with this nation's decision-making process.
My second point is linked to the first. In recent years, we have experienced a ridiculous set of events connected with the conjunction of timing of decisions. No better evidence can be found than at Waterloo. We are debating in this House, after which it will go to another place, the timetable for building the Jubilee line—digging holes, taking out the spoil, and so on. At the same time, the London residuary body, which took over the functions of the Greater London council after the Conservative Government decided to abolish it, is planning for the future of county hall. Opposition Members do not agree with its plans.
As the hon. Member for Vauxhall said, we believe that county hall should be retained for the government of London. We are convinced that, sooner or later, there will be government of London at regional level. In the meantime, however, another public body has charge of that building. It has tried to obtain approval for a development plan. However, the ridiculous illogicality is that the developer has gone. Therefore this public body is seeking planning approval for a plan for a developer who has disappeared.
Even if we accept the bizarre nature of there being a planning application on behalf of a non-existent developer, what is even more illogical is that we are having a debate about Jubilee gardens into which is intruding the concern of a non-elected body—the London residuary body—at a time when we do not know what decision will be taken about LRB's planning application for that building. That is madness, too. It is mad that the House of Commons should have to decide what powers to give the promoters—London Underground—when we do not know what the success or failure will be of the latest planning application in relation to LRB's plans for county hall.
I do not know when the Secretary of State will make his decision. A different Secretary of State—the Secretary of State for the Environment—is in charge. What a way to proceed. It is complete nonsense that the planning of London's transport, its use of open space, its buildings and architecture and its public land use cannot be joined together so that logical decisions can be taken. It will be even bigger nonsense if, despite our efforts, decisions about the Jubilee line and Jubilee gardens have to be taken before we know the outcome of the planning application that has gone for decision, after public inquiry, to the Secretary of State in relation to county hall.
We in this House may be unable to alter the fact that we shall have to make a decision before the result of the planning application is known. I suspect that any other option is no longer available to us. However, as the hon. Member for Vauxhall rightly said, hon. Members, who are democratically elected to represent people with very real concerns, look now—another paradox of the system—to the unelected members in the other place to protect them. In the meantime, we must just hope that the Secretary of State for the Environment will be able to make his decision about county hall in a way that coincides with the decision-making process in relation to the Jubilee line Bill.
As the hon. Lady said, she and I, her council in Lambeth and mine in Southwark are the representatives of the communities in those boroughs. We want an underground line, but we do not want one if the current proposal means that a muddle will still have to be sorted out. The job of this House is to flag the remaining issues that are still in a muddle and to say to the promoters and to the Government, "For heaven's sake, while trying to regenerate south London by building this useful new line, please do not ruin many other things along its route." One of the most precious things is Jubilee gardens. We must make sure that we do not mess it up for this and future generations.
I support the new clause that has been moved by my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey). Both she and the hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) made the point that all of us with London constituencies—certainly those who represent constituencies in south London, as I do—know how much pleasure Jubilee gardens brings to our constituents and their families. It is a very pleasant area, both during the day and in the evening. We need to preserve such areas. Hon. Members who have been in the House for a while know that, unless we begin to voice our concerns and to receive guarantees about the future of Jubilee gardens, things may happen that neither we nor the people of London would want or support.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall is to be congratulated on moving new clause 1. Subsection (4)—my hon. Friend or the hon. Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) may develop this later—refers to Jubilee gardens not remaining in the possession of, I assume, the developers for "longer than 54 months". That is four and a half years, which is a long time. We are entitled to be told the extent of disruption in the area for four and a half years. Are we right in assuming that workings will continue for seven days a week and, if not on a 24-hour, day-by-day basis, will begin early in the morning and continue until late evening?
What would be the result of such disruption in the area? We already know that Waterloo is a busy area; there is much traffic in the rush hour and throughout the day. How much further disruption would there be as heavy lorries moved the spoil and as other lorries delivered supplies?
There are a number of shops in the area. What will happen to people who are trying to run a business? Have they been consulted and asked for their views? I remember speaking in the House months ago on the development of Victoria station. Hon. Members asked how much consultation there had been, and it became clear that there had been little. People had not been made aware that workings would continue for a long time, which would disrupt business in the area.
I should like to know a little more about the cost of the development. My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall referred to county hall. I realise that this is not the time to discuss county hall, but the way in which that proposed development has been handled has been a disgrace, and it has fizzled out into nothing. As my hon. Friend said, the Department of the Environment is more involved in the future of county hall than the Department of Transport, but it is time that Members of Parliament, especially those representing London constituencies, were informed of the position and were allowed, in Government time, to make their views known on the future development of county hall.
I should be interested to hear, if not from the sponsor possibly from the Minister, about the cost not only of compensating prospective developers of county hall but of all the works. Will the costs be borne solely by London Transport, by London Transport and a percentage grant from the Department of Transport or, as we see so often, by a little bit of each, with increased fares that commuters must pay? We are entitled to know something about that.
My hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall was right to move the new clause. As she said, she spoke not only for her constituents and people living in the area adjacent to Waterloo but for the people of London, who have enjoyed and who wish to continue to enjoy Jubilee gardens. I am delighted to have the opportunity to support her.
I congratulate the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) on eloquently putting the case for Jubilee gardens on behalf of her constituents. We are all concerned about open space in London, and the majority of us sympathise with people who must live near the centre and therefore suffer from continuous building works. I know a little about that because, living over the road during the week, I find that, as soon as scaffolding is taken down, more is erected, and banging and crashing starts at 8 am.
We are concerned to ensure, first, that constituents are not inconvenienced any more than necessary and, secondly, that open space is protected. We particularly appreciate the point that the hon. Lady made about metropolitan open land.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall asked about the cost. She rightly said that it would be cheaper for the promoters to use the working space that is closer to county hall. She also said that they would run the risk of incurring considerable extra costs in compensation for the subsequent development of county hall. She said that the cost of that could be between £50 million and £100 million. I have also heard that figure, which I believe to be true. That was one of the main reasons why the Committee that considered the Bill was concerned about the possible additional cost to the project.
The Committee required an undertaking that the area close to county hall be grassed for as long as that land was not required. As the hon. Member for Vauxhall said, that may be for the duration of the contract—54 months—and the promoters have given the London residuary body an undertaking that the children's playground will be retained. Everybody appreciates the value of that playground and the open space. The hon. Lady's point is taken.
I did not expect the hon. Gentleman to move on quite so quickly, so I hope that he will accept this brief intervention. I do not think that, in the circumstances that he described, he meant to imply that the London residuary body was obliged to sue. I understand from my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall that there is no reason to believe that the costs of £50 million or £100 million would accrue.
We are talking about several public authorities. Surely we are trying to balance the interests of the public and the convenience of Londoners and their recreational facilities with the other interests. Will the hon. Gentleman make it clear whether he foresees an absolute risk of this happening, or whether, as my hon. Friend suggested, it could be set aside by the LRB?
If I may, I shall leave that point for the moment, but I promise to return to it.
The hon. Member for Southwark and Bermondsey (Mr. Hughes) suggested that this matter should not be considered before the future of county hall has been determined. The Committee considered that aspect in detail. Most hon. Members would welcome the construction of the Jubilee line, and it would be wrong to delay the work unnecessarily by insisting that no progress was made until a final decison was taken.
I hope that the hon. Gentleman did not mean to imply that I argued that we should not wait for a decision. I tried to say clearly that, because the Bill has to go to the other place and because we are waiting for a decision by the Secretary of State on another matter, a decision on the planning matter and consideration in detail in the other place could coincide. Before the Bill completes its passage, those two aspects may coincide, and there may be some logic in planning for Jubilee gardens and Waterloo.
That matter is not in my hands. I do not want to imply that the promoters would be happy if the Department did not make a decision before the Bill reached the other place and if work was therefore held up. I accept that it would be to everyone's advantge to know about the future of county hall before a final decision was taken, but I am afraid that no undertaking can be given.
The hon. Member for Tooting (Mr. Cox) voiced concern about the future of Jubilee gardens. We want Jubilee gardens to return as quickly as possible to the important role that it now plays. It has a reputation as an excellent space in the centre of the metropolis, and we all regret the need to disturb it. The Committee listened carefully to the arguments and to the proposed alternatives, but in the circumstances we must look forward to the work being carried out as quickly as possible.
The work will go on around the clock, for five and a half days a week. According to the latest figures, the total cost of the project will be about £1·3 billion. Part of the funding will come from some of those who will benefit from the stations constructed along the route. Negotiations are still taking place. It is difficult to tell the hon. Member for Tooting precisely what the ultimate figure will be, but I assure him that the public Exchequer will do its best to ensure that those who benefit from their property will pay their full share towards the total cost of the project.
I fully accept that county hall is owned by the public at large. I do not agree with the hon. Member for Vauxhall that, because it is owned by the public, we can play fast and loose with the funds. I am sure that the hon. Lady did not mean to imply that that is what we should do. It is important to try to keep the public cost as low as possible. If we can sensibly arrange construction by preserving for the public as much of their investment as possible, we should do so.
There is no requirement on the LRB to demand between £50 million and £100 million, but we must appreciate that it would be fully entitled to do so and that many people would consider that it was its responsibility to do so if the money were owned by the wider public rather than the passengers who will use that section of the route. The residuary body would have that responsibility, and therefore may be pressed to exercise it.
Is not LRB under an obligation to dispose of county hall at what is quoted as the best price that may be "practicably" obtained? I ask the hon. Gentleman to return to the question of who does the cost-benefit analysis? Who is weighing up the costs of the loss of Jubilee gardens over that period?
The total costs involved in the project were taken into account over three days by the Committee. Arguments were made, and the Committee went into the matter in great detail. It unanimously agreed that the right solution was that which had been proposed, with an undertaking that the promoters should do their best to provide an alternative to Jubilee gardens for the benefit of the local community. The costings and the detailed cost-benefit analysis were considered in detail over three days. It was an in-depth study. It would not be right for us again to go over the ground that the Committee covered, with the benefit of counsel's opinion. For that reason, the promoters hope that they can rely on the House to maintain the Committee's opinion and to reject the new clause.
I find it difficult to follow the hon. Gentleman's argument. There is a legalistic argument about how, theoretically, the LRB may forgo some moneys because of these works which may, theoretically, affect some sale. As my hon. Friend the Member for Vauxhall (Miss. Hoey) said, there is no sale—there is no buyer, and no planning permission has been given. It is a theoretical and legalistic argument.
It will be clear to Londoners and to those who are used to using Jubilee gardens, walking by the river and enjoying those amenities, what the loss will be if plans go ahead. One is not comparing like with like. The hon. Gentleman acknowledges that the public at large own the area. They will quickly and directly see the loss they will suffer if they lose those amenities. I do not believe that they see the loss that they "may" theoretically suffer by forgoing the moneys that "may" be made on the site if it "were" sold to a developer, who does not exist.
I am grateful to the hon. Lady for her comments, but she is misguided in believing that the residents in the area will not have the benefit of their riverside walk. They will still have a riverside walk on the remaining land, although it will not be as large a piece. Whichever half is taken, they will still have the same problem—they will still have less than they have now. They will still, nevertheless, have a garden which has a similar proximity to the river as the present area. On that basis, the House should allow the promoters to go ahead.
I must correct the hon. Gentleman. It is not fair or right to talk about halves. We are talking about a much smaller part of the area that is predominantly not grassed over, which is seen by London Underground as offering the most sensible use of the land. The other part that London Underground will be forced to use by the non-elected LRB is a substantial chunk which takes the heart out of Jubilee gardens. I should be happy for the promoter of the Bill to walk around the gardens with me next week as the Minister did, because we are talking about the heart of Jubilee gardens, not half.
I am sorry, but I am looking at the map, and the hatched area is larger than that which is left unhatched. Therefore, I do not understand the hon. Lady's argument. Moreover, neither of the areas go down to the river frontage, so I do not understand the argument about people being unable to gain access to the river. Neither of the areas goes right up to the river wall; both are set back, at about 20m, I would guess. Therefore, uninhibited passage along the river frontage will still be available. In Committee, the promoters gave an undertaking that they would grass the area if it was not required, so I do not understand the problem.
I shall make one or two points on behalf of the Departments of the Environment and of Transport. My hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South (Mr. Thorne) has again ably and comprehensively sought to answer the issues that have been raised, and what I have to say is in addition to his comments.
I am very pleased that the hon. Member for Vauxhall (Miss Hoey) will support the Bill. This is not a party political issue, and there is a broad consensus among all parties, including the Liberal Democrats, that the Bill will be good for London. I appreciate that there will be inconvenience to the residents of Vauxhall. As my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South said, there is no question but that there will be four and a half years of inconvenience—as fairly sketched by the hon. Member for Vauxhall—on the northern part of the site and possibly another two years on the southern portion of the site if a car park is dug. Either way, there is inconvenience and that is part of the loss of amenity which the hon. Lady said should be weighed. I shall seek to answer that point on behalf of the Government.
As part of the loss my hon. Friend the Member for Ilford, South fairly cited the £1 million additional cost of tunnelling from a site further away than the running tunnel. In addition, there would be some loss of amenity.
On the gain side, there is clearly a risk that, if county hall is sold for a use that involves a car park, the potential loss to London Regional Transport could be substantial. The risks have been set out in Committee, and it cannot be denied that there is a risk that the taxpayer would have to find a substantial sum of money. That is the distinction. The taxpayer funds London Regional Transport and the underground, but the charge payer—as my hon. Friend rightly said—is the beneficiary from the sale of county hall by the London residuary body. Therefore, although both are part of the public sector—I say this as the Minister accountable to the House for the funding of London Regional Transport—the taxpayer would end up compensating the charge payers of London for the loss of receipts because the car park could not be constructed.
The hon. Member for Vauxhall mentioned two issues on which I can perhaps reassure her on behalf of the Government. My hon. Friend the Minister with responsibility for inner cities and I have a joint responsibility for ensuring that two things happen, and I give the hon. Lady these assurances. First, I have seen the children's playground, and I assure her that the Government will ensure that all reasonable steps are taken to move the playground and to find a new site and that the cost of so moving it will be met so that that amenity will not be lost.
Secondly, on removal of soil, the London Residuary Body and London Regional Transport will work together to ensure that the streets of Vauxhall and of south London in general will, if at all possible, not be burdened with heavy goods vehicles transporting soil from the excavation for the car park and that the soil will be disposed of by barge using the same system as London Regional Transport. I hope that the hon. Lady will accept those assurances in the spirit in which they are offered.
I welcome the assurances about the children's playground. To be fair to London Underground, it has been extremely helpful in discussing the spoil and how to minimise it. However, I am disappointed that the Minister has been unable to give me the feeling that anyone has been sent to find a way around the financial difficulty of two public bodies, given that the Minister accepts—although he did not say so, it would have been nice if he had—that the best site was that which we wanted. I should have liked the Minister to say that he would sit around a table with officials from the Department of the Environment to find a way around the problem. The cost-benefit analysis has not been carried out satisfactorily.
The sponsor of the Bill talked a lot about the Committee. I spent some time in that Committee and I genuinely wish—perhaps I should not say this—that the detail and depth mentioned by the sponsor had in fact emerged. However, I do not feel that I could honestly say to my constituents that the members of the Committee —I intend no insult to them—examined the cost as I should have liked them to.
The legal opinion given to the Waterloo Community Development Group was exactly the opposite of that given by the Committee. More work needs to be done in the House of Lords or "another place", as I believe that it is called. In view of the Minister's assurance on the other issue I shall not press the motion to a vote now, but I hope that, when the Bill returns from another place, we shall have found a way forward which will be in the interests of the people of London as a whole, not just those of my constituents. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment.