Amendment 2

Kew Gardens (Leases) (No. 3) Bill [HL] - Committee – in the House of Lords at 4:15 pm on 21st May 2019.

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Lord Whitty:

Moved by Lord Whitty

2: Clause 1, page 1, line 4, at end insert—“( ) Leases granted or extended under this Act shall be subject to the condition that activities on or in the land or buildings leased will contribute to, be supportive of, or be compatible with the core botanical, scientific, environmental, educational and amenity activities of the Royal Botanic Gardens, its World Heritage status and its charitable objectives.”

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee

My Lords, I will try to be brief, but I am afraid I will revert to many of the points which were touched on under the amendment moved by the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, and I am not entirely sure that the Minister has entirely convinced me.

There is a central point. I am all for simplicity of legislation, but the Minister keeps referring to the seven cottages on Kew Green and the wish to extend the existing leases. Everybody understands that, and I do not think there has been any great dissent in the Committee about the desirability of so doing, but the Bill refers to,

“the power to grant a lease in respect of land for a period of up to 150 years”.

That to me means all land. The Crown can and does give leases. The specifics on the two royal estates which make up Kew add complexity to the issue, but as it stands we could have 150-year leases on any of the land that Kew covers. There is no distinction in the drafting of the Bill between core and non-core land. I appreciate the Minister’s assertions that this one of the most protected pieces of land in the nation. I accept that there are all sorts of protections built into the current situation. I also deeply appreciate the Minister and his staff and the staff of Kew meeting me and discussing this at some length, but I come back to the text of the Bill. There is no difference between us on the objectives, but for the first time 150-year leases could be granted under this Bill, without restriction, on any piece of land which the botanical gardens now cover.

I understand all the protections that are built in, but I go along with the French of the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson. Times change. Secretaries of State change. The arrangements for the Charity Commission will change. It may be that the implications of being a world heritage site change. It may even be possible that the political control of the London Borough of Richmond upon Thames changes dramatically—that is slightly less likely. Kew Gardens need to be protected against change. In so far as this Act will continue to be the basis on which leases are granted for 150 years over an unlimited period forward, we have to have rather more protections here.

The regulatory structure that the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, has identified is complex. Therefore, it is almost certain that departmental structures and memoranda of understanding will change over the next 150 years and beyond, and rightly so in many respects. However, we are dealing with the Bill as it stands. As I said, I do not object to Kew’s ability to raise money. In many respects, I think that it will greatly benefit from private finance coming into the organisation—or more so than is the case at present, although it has been quite successful at raising money in recent years. However, we need a restriction on the way in which the land will then be used.

My amendment recognises the multifaceted aspects of Kew. Essentially, it is scientific, as the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, said, but Kew’s objectives relating to science, the environment, education that stems from that science, and the amenity and enjoyment value—the sixth function, as the noble Viscount called it—all need protection. Therefore, my amendment stipulates that the use of the land should not challenge or undermine any of those objectives and outcomes. It is couched in pretty broad terms. It says that the use of the land must either contribute to or support Kew’s objectives—support can mean bringing in the finance for those objectives—or at least be compatible with them. The word “or” there in my amendment should perhaps be “and”, because in a sense compatibility with those objectives is my central point.

My noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours asked whether a developer could build possibly unsuitable residential buildings on those sites. The Minister said that everybody would object to that, so it would not happen. However, under the Bill it could happen. That is my point. At Second Reading I explained my ancestral and childhood love and affection for Kew, and that is shared with a wide range of people. However, certain developments in the rest of London, including those along the Thames in, say, the neighbouring borough of Wandsworth, which we can look at over the bridge down the road, have not exactly been compatible with their surroundings.

If anything impinged on Kew, it would be detrimental to its amenity value, it would probably undermine its UNESCO world heritage site designation, and it could change the public’s attitude towards it. I completely accept the Minister’s view that such development is unlikely. In the short term it is almost impossible because Ministers will have the present apparatus of regulation and planning controls at their disposal. I have no desire to challenge the intentions of the Minister, the department or the Kew trustees in bringing forward these proposals. However, this House and this Parliament need to say, “Well, yes, do all that, but let’s write in a general restriction to ensure that these probably imagined and scaremongering possibilities do not arise”. I would feel a lot safer, as I think other lovers and supporters would, if those restrictions were put in.

I hold no great attachment to the precise wording of my amendment. I would be delighted if at the end of this debate the Minister said, “We accept the principle but we will ask parliamentary counsel to draft an alternative form of words that will achieve the same objective”. That outcome would be very helpful and I would welcome the Minister saying something like that at this stage. If he could bring something forward on Report that achieved those objectives, I would very much welcome it. However, in default of that, I would like the Minister and the House to take my amendment seriously. I beg to move.

Photo of Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Baroness Jones of Whitchurch Shadow Spokesperson (Environment, Food and Rural Affairs)

My Lords, I have my name to my noble friend Lord Whitty’s amendment but I also have Amendment 4 in this group so I hope noble Lords will forgive me if I introduce it at this stage; it addresses the criteria to be used for any lease extensions.

I should say, as is implied, that we support Amendment 2 in the name of my noble friend Lord Whitty. This goes back to the Second Reading debate, where—I agree with the Minister—we are more or less on the same page; we are trying to find a way around some of these issues. During the Second Reading debate there was some concern from around the Chamber, expressed in different ways, about what was perceived as an inevitable weakening of controls over the use of the land and property, which could indeed result in developments which adversely impact on Kew’s global status and reputation. I heard what my noble friend Lord Campbell-Savours said. I am not sure that anybody will try to build a high-rise block of flats, but there could be issues around the commercial development of restaurants or shops and so on which could—not necessarily at the outset but as time went by—damage the reputation of Kew. These are some of the issues that we need to extract, and ensure that they are put to rest.

At Second Reading, the Minister was at pains to explain all the safeguards that would be in place to make sure that inappropriate development did not happen. He rightly referred to the role of the trustees, the local planning authority and indeed UNESCO. He repeated that in his letter to us of 16 May. I am grateful to him for adding that clarification. I am sure that the trustees, in particular, will ferociously guard against any attempt to foist an alien intrusion on them. I am sure we all have faith in the trustees who have been appointed, and that all the bodies, including the local authority, will be assiduous in trying to protect the values and inspiration of the site.

However, we have to bear in mind the precise wording of the Bill because, despite the Minister’s reassurances, it focuses the decision in the hands of one person, the Secretary of State. As the noble Lord, Lord Hodgson, pointed out at Second Reading, this mirrors the provision of the National Heritage Act 1983 which states:

“If the Minister directs the Board to exercise functions specified in the direction in relation to land so specified, the Board shall exercise them on his behalf in such manner as he may from time to time direct”.

So, in the earlier legislation, and in the Bill before us today, the Minister can overrule the board of trustees as he sees fit on the use of the land. That is why we worded our amendment as it is framed before your Lordships today. The one body that is completely independent of the Secretary of State and cannot be overruled by him or her is UNESCO. Our amendment would require the Secretary of State to consult UNESCO on whether any lease granted under the Act would impact on Kew’s very precious world heritage site status. We felt that this would be a secure way of protecting the integrity of Kew’s activities, which are carefully monitored by UNESCO and subject to a detailed management plan agreed between UNESCO and Kew and updated from time to time.

I hope that noble Lords will see the sense of this proposal. Like my noble friend Lord Whitty, I would, if the Minister felt so inclined, very happily talk about the precise wording that these guarantees might take, which could be put on the face of the Bill to reassure ourselves and all noble Lords that the criteria will be in keeping with Kew’s very special status.

Photo of Baroness Tonge Baroness Tonge Independent Liberal Democrat 4:30 pm, 21st May 2019

My Lords, I support Amendments 2 and 4, at least in spirit. I first apologise for not having spoken at Second Reading; I had an unavoidable appointment so was unable to do so. Had I been here, I think I would have agreed with all the remarks made in that debate, which was excellent.

I have lived in Kew for 45 years. I was a local councillor for nearly 10 years and an MP for the area. I can claim to know Kew and Kew Gardens pretty well. My husband always used to say that I knew every letterbox in Kew, which indeed I still do. I am not sure that I could claim to know every tree in Kew Gardens but I know a fair number of them and I certainly know Kew Green very well. It is a very precious place, dear to residents and the nation.

I would like to go back very briefly to 1983. I remember well attending as a local councillor a public meeting in a school hall in Kew that had been called by the director of Kew Gardens and his team—they were not trustees then—to explain that Kew Gardens was going to become a trust. They explained the system of becoming a trust with trustees and no longer being directly funded by the Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food, as it was then. I rather disgraced myself at the meeting by being very outspoken; as noble Lords will know, I tend in that direction quite often. I said that I was terribly afraid that this would lead to Kew becoming a botanical theme park.

Of course, that has not happened. I was shouted down, quite rightly. However, over the last 30 to 40 years, I have noticed how much Kew has changed. If you come to Kew at Christmas or during the school summer holidays, it is geared to making money by getting children to spend lots of money on popcorn, ice cream and rides in pretty-coloured boats on the lake in front of the Palm House. It has been commercialised. The people who have spoken are quite right to worry that other forms of commercialisation could occur. It is a creeping sort of process and we need to beware of it. The present director, Richard Deverell, is absolutely terrific. He is a wonderful person and he is doing great things for Kew. However, we cannot guarantee that future directors will be as careful and as caring as he is.

I understand that Kew has to raise more money. Indeed, my noble friend Lady Kramer made the point at Second Reading that the entrance fee has now gone up to £16.50. It used to be a penny when I was a local councillor. Everyone loves to say that. Of course, £16.50 is hugely expensive for most families and we want to make it more widely available. Kew has to make more money, but we have to be careful. These amendments in particular say that we must make sure that this is not the beginning of more commercialisation at Kew Gardens, and a loss of the emphasis on the huge amount of botanical and scientific work that goes on there.

Photo of Viscount Eccles Viscount Eccles Conservative

My Lords, I have a great deal of time for what the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, just said. I also have a great deal of time for this amendment. To me, the crucial thing is the words,

“compatible with the core … scientific … activities of the Royal Botanic Gardens”.

As I said, the balance at Kew is the crucial issue. It is primarily a scientific institution. The people who work for scientific institutions are not necessarily very good at defending their own wickets. Their minds are on other things—higher things, very often.

In supporting this amendment, I should like to talk about change. There has been quite a lot of talk about Kew’s funding. Kew is now 60% bigger than it was in my day, on three measures. A change has taken place. We employed about 500 people at that time. Kew now employs over 800 people. If you look at the Defra grant, as opposed to the MAFF grant from my last year, it is now over 50% higher in real terms than it was then. Noble Lords will find that if they look at almost anything at Kew. Its total budget or turnover—£111 million—is also about 60% higher in real terms than it was in my final year there, 1991. Kew has had a very good run. A lot of that is due to the support it has had from MAFF and then Defra, the tremendous support from the public and its own foundation, and its ability to attract funds from many sources, including partnerships.

However, a lot of other changes have taken place. Climate change, environmental damage and worries about food security have gone up the agenda—you name it: biodiversity, species extinction and so on. My concern is that Kew has the capacity to do much more. Indeed, I do not complain about it being much larger in real terms. It has the capacity to be much more proactive and to be engaged in some of the solutions to some of these problems that we all face. But if the balance shifts too far in favour of estate management and parks management, science will go down the agenda relatively. If noble Lords look at what is happening at Kew and the management structure in the round, they might come to the conclusion that the balance has shifted too far in favour of the sixth general function—the parks function—and too far away from the first five, notably the first two about the investigation and dissemination of science.

Therefore, I come back to the point that if we are removing the Charity Commission as some sort of umpire, which we are for legal reasons, that makes it even more important to deal with the dimension of the gamekeeper—Defra—and the poacher—Kew—which, between them can come to whatever conclusions they want about what is to the public benefit unless there is some other way of monitoring that situation. Clearly Parliament has a role, as do some of the movements out there, such as the Green Party and Extinction Rebellion.

The most important thing to achieve with the Bill is to have something in it that commits Kew and Defra to work out the appropriate state-of-the-art interpretation of Section 24, to publish what that is and to have it debated in whatever forum wants to debate it. At the moment there is no clear interpretation of Section 24. At Second Reading I referred to Professor Ghillean Prance’s vision of 1993. He had, and set out, a pretty clear definition of what Section 24 meant and how Kew should respond to it. Reading today’s much glossier and more expensive publications does not give me the same clear understanding of how Kew and Defra interpret Section 24.

I have a great deal of time for the amendment. If my noble friend on the Front Bench were willing, we would welcome a government-drafted amendment that covered the points made by the noble Lord, Lord Whitty. If not, we will have to return to this subject on Report.

Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 4:45 pm, 21st May 2019

My Lords, perhaps I may suggest to the Minister a fairly straightforward way out of this. If I understand the House correctly—of course, I may not—and look at my own view, I do not think anyone has a problem with granting 150-year leases to the seven properties on Kew Green. As the Minister said, six are listed; the seventh is still within a conservation area. No matter what its political colour, the local council will not allow any kind of abuse of those properties through its planning committees. I am sure that being able to lease them for a larger sum of money to ensure that they are restored—I think some are close to falling on someone—would not be opposed by this House. The problem is that the Bill uses a much wider sweep to cover, as the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, said, a great deal more property than those seven houses.

Personally, I do not think the part of the botanic gardens that is so clearly the botanic gardens will be at risk but I want to raise the issue of the parking area. Probably just a few of us here are so familiar with the gardens that we understand the parking area; for those who do not, that area is quite peculiar. It is right on the river, so that some of the best river views in probably all the country are enjoyed by the cars. Part of the parking area is a sort of casual gravel and the rest is a mix of grass and trees, with people trying to park their cars between the trees. There are just a couple of parking meters. I cannot remember what one puts in now—I think it is around £7—but whether you park for five minutes or the whole day, that is it. It is not even supervised.

I know developers have looked at that site and cannot believe that it is put to such a use. The obvious answer for them is to make an offer to Kew to provide some form of alternate parking—there is great pressure not to allow people to bring cars to Kew at all—and use the site for some form of luxury housing. Your Lordships can see why that would be desirable. I think the community would have huge concerns about all this. It would be different if the property was developed to create new buildings for science and the core work—the collection and activities at Kew. But the fear that it could be used for housing or a couple of cafes, or whatever else, comes to mind when you know the area well.

Because that is a completely separate discussion, I suggest to the Minister that since Kew Gardens needs to be able to deal with those seven properties on Kew Green, why not narrow the Bill? Frankly, we could name the seven properties since there is only that small number of them. I am sure this House would then be able to deal with that legislation directly. Meanwhile, the constraint of a 31-year lease continues to apply, which means that if new development of the kind I have just described is to be explored, the Government would have to come back to the House and raise the question around the specific character of that development.

Photo of Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Baroness Warwick of Undercliffe Labour

My Lords, as this debate has gone on I have become more and more concerned. When I supported the Bill at Second Reading, it was very much on the basis of emphasising Kew’s world excellence in its particular fields of science. The emphasis on raising the extra money from new sources of private income was entirely based on an understanding that this was what the additional resource might be used for, so I am really anxious.

While I do not want to repeat all the arguments made so far, it seems that unless we specifically indicate or reinforce the original objectives of Kew in the Bill and establish why this change is being introduced, as my noble friends Lord Whitty and Lady Jones seek to do here, there is clear potential for reputational damage to Kew. It is not just among the public that there would be huge reputational impact; it would have an impact on Kew’s ability to raise further funds subsequently because its reputation will have been harmed. Even if the form of words is not right, given the aim of reasserting Kew’s main objectives—I was grateful to the noble Viscount, Lord Eccles, for reinforcing the point that the scientific excellence of Kew and its scientific interrogations are its prime focus—I hope the Minister will reconsider.

Photo of Lord Campbell-Savours Lord Campbell-Savours Labour

My Lords, I shall intervene only briefly. I sense that the Minister has difficulty in mouthing the words that residential property development could be considered on that site, not now but perhaps in 20 or 30 years’ time when there is a lot of pressure. I understand that, under residential development for flats, that land would probably fetch in the region of £1,500 per square foot. That provides some fairly expensive property. There will be people who, under pressure and needing funds, might take a chance and put in for a development, perhaps on the car park that was just referred to. I support the amendment suggested by my noble friend. In the event that it is rejected at this stage, I might come back at a later stage to see how the legislation, whose subtext is residential development in the long term, can be interfered with and greater restraints than currently exist introduced.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

My Lords, I say from the outset that I take the amendment in the name of the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, with the seriousness that I know he takes Kew. I also recognise the direct knowledge of the noble Baronesses, Lady Tonge and Lady Kramer, down to the last tree in the car park, which is probably the one that unfortunately has had most bonnets interfere with it. I understand the local and historical knowledge of the former Minister and the desire of the noble Baroness, Lady Jones of Whitchurch, for protections. My noble friend Lord Eccles is a former chairman of Kew. The noble Baroness, Lady Warwick, talked about reputational damage and the noble Lord, Lord Campbell-Savours, talked about how we ensure that the Bill, which is laudable in so many senses, gives protection for ever. The whole basis of why I am seeking consent for the Bill is to help Kew. I absolutely recognise that your Lordships all want to help it too.

I am, therefore, grateful to the noble Lord for his amendment and for the clear indication that your Lordships regard Kew in the same light as I do, as the Minister with day-to-day responsibility for it. This is an establishment of unique value and an institution worthy of the highest protection. I was interested in what the noble Baroness, Lady Tonge, said about children. I was fortunate enough to go to one of the early openings of the children’s garden last week. I did not detect commercialism there; I saw a lot of children running around enjoying plants and understanding more about them. Taking off the rose-tinted spectacles of previous times, families have changed. We have all changed, as have the sorts of things that engaged us. I am afraid I did jump on a trampoline—it was a very small one. There are all sorts of things we can do to engage children. My analysis of the children’s garden and its design is that it gets children engaged. I want children from all backgrounds to think, “I want a life in plants; I want to come to Kew as a scientist; I want to work for Kew”. Those are my ambitions for Kew’s reach to local communities and beyond. I have teased this out myself, because I clearly want Kew to be protected forever. I am grateful for the opportunity to set out the restrictions.

First, as a UNESCO world heritage site and conservation area with 44 listed buildings, Kew Gardens is subject to some of the highest level of scrutiny and statutory approvals available under the planning system —as it should be, of course—and this will not change under the Bill. Regardless of any additional conditions that might be placed on the lease by the Secretary of State, any significant internal or external developments under the lease, whether structural or otherwise, would be subject to the relevant development permissions. The local planning authority, with advice from Historic England, in particular, would be responsible for deciding whether a proposed development should be allowed to go ahead and whether to grant planning permission for new buildings, major alterations, including any to listed buildings, or significant changes to the use of a building or piece of land. The Bill will not change or replace this governance process.

I hope it will be helpful to your Lordships to set out in detail the separate planning controls that protect Kew’s unique heritage. The Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 is the legislative basis for decision-making on applications that relate to the historical environment. Sections 66 and 72 of the Act impose a statutory duty on local planning authorities to consider the impact of proposals on listed buildings and conservation areas. This is particularly relevant to the Royal Botanic Gardens and the Kew Green conservation areas, as well as the many listed buildings in the Kew UNESCO world heritage site that contribute to its outstanding universal value.

The National Planning Policy Framework, the NPPF, sets out the Government’s planning policies and how they are expected to be applied, dealing particularly with the historical environment. The Government’s national planning practice guidance gives further information on how national policy is to be interpreted and applied locally. As the relevant local planning authority, the London Borough of Richmond would apply the policies of the NPPF to its local plan, setting out policies for making planning decisions in its area, including those covering historic buildings and conservation areas. The local planning authority is advised by Historic England on all aspects of the historical environment, and by the Greater London Archaeology Advisory Service on all archaeological matters.

The NPPF provides clear direction for planning authorities on the determination of applications affecting designated and non-designated heritage assets. The framework recognises that UNESCO world heritage sites are of the highest significance and that great weight must be given to the conservation of their significance and their setting. It says:

“Heritage assets range from sites and buildings of local historic value to those of the highest significance, such as World Heritage Sites which are internationally recognised to be of Outstanding Universal Value. These assets are an irreplaceable resource, and should be conserved in a manner appropriate to their significance, so that they can be enjoyed for their contribution to the quality of life of existing and future generations”.

The framework also provides for key policy tests for developments that would harm the significance of designated assets, including world heritage sites.

I hope noble Lords can see that these sections clearly set out the importance of a world heritage site and the local planning authority’s duty to ensure that the greatest level of consideration and protection is applied when implementing national, London-wide and local planning policy. Kew Gardens is also located in a conservation area, a designation that ensures that extra planning controls and considerations are put in place. Any significant alterations to buildings or new developments would result in further scrutiny from the local planning authority as a result. Further, 44 of the buildings and structures on the Kew Gardens site are listed, acknowledging their special architectural or historic interest. This designation regime is set out in the Planning (Listed Buildings and Conservation Areas) Act 1990 and the list is maintained by Historic England. Any works to alter, extend or demolish Kew Gardens’ listed buildings would require listed building consent from the local planning authority and Historic England, whether planning permission is needed or not. Listed status covers the entire building, internal and external. It is a legal offence to carry out works to a listed building without permission. The Bill will not alter this.

As I have mentioned, any development on a world heritage site or its settings, including any buffer zones, should conserve, promote, make sustainable use of and enhance its authenticity, integrity, significance and outstanding universal value. In particular, it should not compromise a viewer’s ability to appreciate its outstanding universal value, integrity, authenticity or significance.

In addition, much of the Kew Gardens site is designated as metropolitan open land. This designation protects areas of landscape that are strategically important green space, and there are controls on increasing an area of development on such a site, similar to those for the green belt. Any applications for development on Kew Gardens’ metropolitan open land would require approval from the Greater London Authority.

Planning permissions appropriately tailored in accordance with listed status, as well as the other checks that I have mentioned, would allow only development in keeping with Kew Gardens as it is now. The strong and multi-layered checks already in place ensure that any leases granted can only be consistent with Kew’s core functions. I am confident that all the protections are in place and are robust.

Regarding the point about UNESCO, made by the noble Baroness, Lady Jones, I absolutely understand the purpose of her amendment. As we all know, Kew Gardens is a UNESCO world heritage site, due to the special character of the landscape and the historical and contemporary scientific and horticultural activities. Any development must preserve or enhance the objectives of UNESCO, not put them at risk. As a party to the 1972 World Heritage Convention, the UK Government are ultimately responsible for the preservation of the site. The Secretary of State is the Minister with this responsibility. My department and the Kew trustees are duty-bound not to compromise the condition of the site, in line with the management and protection of all world heritage sites across England, including through any leases that may be granted under this Bill.

By way of further assurance, Kew has its own world heritage site stakeholder group to maintain and enhance the site in line with its world heritage site management plan. The effective implementation of government legislation and national, London-wide and local planning policy provide the primary mechanism for meeting the Government’s commitments to UNESCO as signatories to the convention.

As to how the amendment is drafted, there is no mechanism within UNESCO for consultation prior to the grant of a lease. If there are concerns about inappropriate development, UNESCO are notified by DCMS and the International Council on Monuments and Sites, undertaking a technical review before submitting a report.

Noble Lords can also be reassured that Kew Gardens contains a number of designations in addition to being a world heritage site, and as such, they all form key protections against inappropriate development. The Bill would make no change to the current planning process and statutory approvals for alterations to buildings and new developments on the Kew Gardens site. Such process and approval provides assurance that the world heritage site will remain protected against inappropriate—

Photo of Baroness Kramer Baroness Kramer Liberal Democrat Lords Spokesperson (Treasury and Economy) 5:00 pm, 21st May 2019

Can the Minister tell us—clearly not now—what the status is of that car park land? It sits outside the wall of Kew Gardens, so I am not sure how far it is covered by any of the protections he has mentioned, even though it is the obvious site if you were going to have a commercial development. It would be extremely helpful to know what the protection is there.

Photo of Lord Gardiner of Kimble Lord Gardiner of Kimble The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I referred to buffer zones. This is an issue for Kew in terms of how planning proposals beyond the curtilage of Kew Gardens may, in turn, impose upon the world heritage site. I will write to the noble Baroness about the precise element of the car parks, but they are all part of Crown land, which is part of—ah, the noble Baroness is signalling that that may not be the case. May I come back to the noble Baroness on the question of that car park?

In conclusion, it is important to note that the Bill will not supersede the application of any existing legislation or policy already in place. This includes any proposals for new build or changes to the use of buildings, including on the wider estate. I mention that because Kew is a proactive scientific institution and therefore it is inevitable that, in protecting Kew and its wonderful historic site, we will have to have future state of the art scientific buildings with laboratories to help us find solutions to protect our natural ecosystem. So I deliberately raise the fact that, in protecting Kew, we will need new contemporary buildings to assist it in advancing scientific knowledge. I want to protect this great, historic site, and I am sure that it is our objective to entrench that for ever.

I repeat that I have looked at this in great detail and I cannot think of anywhere that has more protected elements, with so many varied facets, than Kew. So I say to the noble Lord, and to all noble Lords, that obviously I am in tune with what they want from this. I would like to continue discussions with the noble Lord, Lord Whitty, and other noble Lords, because I want to get this right. However, in the meantime, I ask the noble Lord to withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Lord Whitty Lord Whitty Chair, EU Internal Market Sub-Committee

My Lords, I thank the Minister for that, and I thank all noble Lords who have supported the intent of the amendment. The Minister clearly spelled out the number of protections that currently apply in different statutes and regulations. I concede that they make Kew probably one of the most protected acreages in the world. Nevertheless, I think I am right in saying that none of the protections existed 150 years ago—and not all of them existed 31 years ago. Therefore, we cannot be sure that they will exist in 31 years or 150 years—yet the leases will have been granted when the Bill becomes an Act.

I am grateful for the Minister’s offer to discuss this further. I understand about all the protections, but they could all change—and, even if they do not, issues could still be raised. I am mindful of another UNESCO world heritage site: the Liverpool waterfront. A building adjacent to it has raised serious questions. I think that in the end UNESCO accepted that it did not offend the status of the site. However, looking at it as a lay person, one might think that it came dangerously close. If a similar building were put on the Kew car park—although I suspect the protections would stop it—it would challenge a lot of what Kew stands for and what it looks like.

I am not suggesting that we should preserve Kew in aspic. I recognise, as the Minister has just said, that new buildings and new facilities will be needed to keep up with the scientific and educational activities of Kew—of course that will happen. But my amendment allows for supportive and compatible development, and we must make sure that the outcome of such development is compatible with and supportive of the general objectives of Kew.

I am disappointed that the Minister did not offer to draft a rather better government amendment for Report. However, I look forward to discussing this with him to see whether perhaps he could go some way down that road. In the meantime, I reserve the right to bring this back should that development not pertain. I thank all noble Lords who participated in the debate and I beg leave to withdraw the amendment.

Amendment 2 withdrawn.