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Flood Warnings

Lord Brabazon of Tara asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Following a review by a Ministry-chaired working group involving representatives of interested organisations, it was agreed last year that, with effect from 1st September 1996, the Environment Agency, as the successor body to the National Rivers Authority (NRA), would assume the lead role in disseminating flood warnings to emergency services, local authorities, other statutory bodies and to people and businesses. This was formalised by means of a Ministerial Direction to the NRA last March which has been inherited by the Environment Agency.

The NRA, and subsequently the agency, has been preparing local flood warning dissemination plans in consultation with the police and local authorities with the aim of providing timely, accurate flood warnings for locations at risk throughout England and Wales where a flood forecasting system exists. These plans will be held at the agency's area offices concerned. With the aid of grant from the Ministry and Welsh Office, the agency is installing automatic voice messaging systems to improve the provision of flood warning information to the public. It will be publicising the new arrangements by various means, including the issuing of leaflets to people and organisations in flood risk areas.

Rendering Plants: Inspection Arrangements

Lord Renfrew of Kaimsthorn asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: Following the introduction of the Bovine Offal (Prohibitions) Regulations 1989, rendering plants were inspected every two months by officers of the State Veterinary Service.

Common Fisheries Policy Review

The Earl of Shrewsbury asked Her Majesty's Government:

Lord Lucas: The report will be published on 24th July and copies will be placed in the Library.

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Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981, s.59: Farmers and Walkers

Baroness Castle of Blackburn asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether they are satisfied that Section 59 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is not being used by farmers to deter walkers from using rights of way which cross their fields; and if so, whether they will amend the Act to prevent them from doing so.

The Minister of State, Department of the Environment (Earl Ferrers): We are satisfied that Section 59 of the Wildlife and Countryside Act 1981 is not being used by farmers to deter walkers from using rights of way which cross their fields. We have no plans to amend the Act.

Royal Parks Agency

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the Royal Parks Agency enjoys Crown Immunity from planning law, if so why, and if not, what restrictions planning law places on its development activities.

The Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State, Department of National Heritage (Lord Inglewood): Responsibility for the subject of this question has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Head of Estate Management, the Royal Parks Agency, Mr. R. A. Jones, dated 25th July 1996.


    In the absence of David Welch, who is currently on holiday, I have been asked by Lord Inglewood to reply to your parliamentary Question about whether the Royal Parks Agency enjoys Crown Immunity from planning law, and what restrictions planning law places on our development activities.


    As is the case with all Crown bodies, the planning Acts do not apply to the Royal Parks Agency. The notification procedure of a proposed Crown development, adopted by all such bodies, is as set out in DoE circular 18/84. This involves close consultation with the planning authorities and provides an appeal procedure in the event that agreement cannot be reached. The agency formally notifies the local planning authority concerned of all its proposed developments which would require planning permission if the Acts applied.

Serpentine Gallery

Lord Kennet asked Her Majesty's Government:

    Whether the ex-Tea House in Kensington Gardens, now the Serpentine Gallery, has all the appropriate permissions to expand its facilities to include a book shop and an educational centre (each to operate

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    separately from the gallery) and use as a wedding reception venue; and whether these new uses are compatible with the Jenkins criteria for activities in Kensington Gardens; and

    Why the usual notifications and consultations with local amenity societies were not carried out regarding the proposed developments at the Serpentine Gallery; and

    How many parties have been held at the Serpentine Gallery; how many are planned; who pays for the extra policing required; and whether the omission to grass over the now-redundant car park and the installation of outside lighting are connected with these new uses for the gallery; and

    Whether the Department of National Heritage is contributing to the refurbishing of the Serpertine Gallery even though the gallery is in receipt of £3 million lottery money.

Lord Inglewood: Responsibility for the subject of these questions has been delegated to the Royal Parks Agency under its Chief Executive, Mr. David Welch. I have asked him to arrange for a reply to be given.

Letter to Lord Kennet from the Head of Estate Management, the Royal Parks Agency, Mr. R. A. Jones, dated 25th July 1996.


    In the absence of David Welch, who is currently on holiday, I have been asked by Lord Inglewood to reply to your four parliamentary Questions about the Serpentine Gallery. Specifically whether the Gallery has all the appropriate permissions to expand its facilities to include a bookshop and an education centre and for use as a wedding reception venue, and whether these new uses are compatible with the Jenkins criteria for activities in Kensington Gardens; why the usual notifications and consultations with local amenity societies were not carried out regarding the proposed developments at the gallery; how many parties have been held at the Serpentine Gallery, how many are planned, who pays for the extra policing required and whether the omission to grass over the now-redundant car park and the installation of outside lighting are connected with these new uses for the gallery; and whether the Department of National Heritage is contributing to the refurbishing of the Serpentine Gallery even though the Gallery is in receipt of £3 million lottery money.


    I understand that you wrote to Lord Inglewood in respect of the Serpentine Gallery on 1 July 1996, and that many of your questions were also included in that letter. I believe he replied on 22 July and my answers confirm the advice which you will have received from him, as well as providing the additional information which you have requested.


    You ask whether the gallery has permission to expand its facilities to include a bookshop and education centre. I can advise in general that the gallery has secured both planning consent and building regulation approval for all the works which are currently planned. The gallery does have an existing small bookshop, and it is intended to enlarge this, to allow additional room for customers to browse and to prevent damage to stock caused by the

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    present crowded conditions. The sale of art-related books, catalogues, prints, special editions, postcard reproductions and promotional material is allowed under the terms of the current licence and there is no intention to move beyond the scope of this.


    The gallery, as an educational charity, organises a wide range of activities with local schools, community groups and further education institutes, and the education centre has been recreated by rearranging the internal space to allow this to continue without interfering with the enjoyment of visitors. The level of educational activity will not increase.


    Both the bookshop and the education centre are ancillary to the main purpose of the gallery and their permitted opening hours will be the same as for the gallery itself.


    You also ask whether the gallery has permission for use as a wedding reception venue. I can confirm that it does not.


    In its review of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, published in February 1992, the Royal Parks Review Group, chaired by Dame Jennifer Jenkins, commented that "pictures in the park . . . are quite compatible with its overall character, so long as the needs of the gallery do not create pressures for unsuitable change in the immediate landscape". We agree entirely and took this view into account in assessing whether the proposed uses should be allowed.


    You question why local amenity societies were not consulted regarding the proposed developments at the gallery. I understand that the vice chairman of the gallery's Board of Trustees, Oliver Prenn, and the administrator, Rebecca King Lassman, had a series of meetings in 1993 with the then chairman of the Friends of Hyde Park and Kensington Gardens, Philip Joseph, and subsequently presented the plans to a committee meeting of the Friends. The only changes since then have been to propose housing the heating plant and workshop in a basement and not to proceed with plans for a cafe.


    With regard to your question about the number of parties held at the gallery, the only events approved by the Royal Parks Agency are those associated with the private viewings/sponsorship which precede each exhibition. Any additional events outside normal gallery opening hours must have the agency's prior consent. The number of such events differs slightly from year to year, but I can advise that during the last 12 months there have been 29 evening events, with a further six planned over the next 12 months. The majority of these events were private views or sponsors' evenings, which ended before 8.30 pm.


    Only events attended by a member of the Royal Family incur additional policing costs. These costs are met from the Royal Parks Agency budget and are not separately identified. Other events do not require the presence of the RPC, although officers do ensure that guests leave the park when it closes at midnight. As this is part of an officer's normal duties, these costs are not separately identified.

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    I can confirm that any changes made to the car park situated opposite the gallery are unrelated to the gallery's functions. The recently installed external lighting to the front of the gallery was installed to enhance the safety of those leaving the events described above, as those held during winter months invariably finish in darkness. The lighting was introduced to address a long-standing problem.


    Finally, with regard to your question as to whether the Department of National Heritage is contributing to the costs of refurbishing of the gallery, I can advise that the Royal Parks Agency is contractually bound to contribute towards the cost of accrued maintenance and that this will be honoured.


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