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Metropolis—Southwark Park

Volume 203: debated on Thursday 28 July 1870

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, in rising to call the attention of the House to the intended appropriation of a large portion of Southwark Park for building purposes by the Metropolitan Board of Works, and to move—

"That, in the opinion of the House, the whole of the land purchased under the Act of 1864 (The Southwark Park Act), should be preserved as a Park for the use and recreation of the Public,"
said, that it was originally intended to purchase 130 acres for the Park, but difficulties arising, only 63 acres were obtained; and he was sure the House would not think that space too large for the recreation of the population of Southwark, amounting to nearly 200,000 persons, of Deptford, and the other neighbouring localities. The Metropolitan Board of Works were now following the course which they proposed to the Open Spaces Committee, of which he (Mr. Locke) had the honour to be Chairman. Sir John Thwaites, in his evidence before that Committee, proposed that the Metropolitan Board should be empowered to take charge of the open spaces around the metropolis, and he suggested that they should purchase them, and recoup themselves for the necessary outlay by appropriating large portions of the land to building purposes. The Report proposed by Mr. Doulton embodying these views was rejected by the Committee, and his, the Chairman's Report, adopted. The Report directed that the whole of the land should in each case be preserved for the recreation of the people. Now, in the case of Southwark Park the Board had determined to take no less than 16 acres and sell it for the purpose of having it built upon. Additional land would be required for a road to approach the houses, and thus no less than 26 acres would be taken from the public and applied to the purpose of recouping the Metropolitan Board to some extent for their outlay in making the Park. He ought to state that the funds employed for the purchase of the land for the formation of the Park had been furnished by rates levied on the whole of the metropolis. Even if the Metropolitan Board had a right to do this, that House might fairly be called on to express their opinion against it; and with that view he now brought forward the subject. He well remembered standing beside Sir John Thwaites upon a platform on the day that he publicly declared this Park open. The whole 63 acres had over since been used and enjoyed by the public, and he contended that Sir John Thwaites had now no right to withdraw 16 acres of the area so declared to be open and available for public use and enjoyment. Open spaces were necessary not only for the recreation, but for the health of the metropolis; but they would both be endangered unless the House endeavoured to check the Board. There was an extremely strong feeling in the borough of Southwark against the course which the Metropolitan Board were taking, and this had been evinced by several large and influential meetings. He hoped the House would not be influenced by any technical objection to his Motion; but would express the opinion which was embodied in it. The hon. Member concluded by moving his Resolution.

Amendment proposed,

To leave out from the word "That" to the end of the Question, in order to add the words "in the opinion of this House, the whole of the land purchased under the Act of 1864 (The Southwark Park Act), should be preserved as a Park for the use and recreation of the Public,"—(Mr. Locke,)

—instead thereof.

Question proposed, "That the words proposed to be left out stand part of the Question."

said, that if the question was merely as to the extent of land which it was desirable to retain he did not think that 63, or even 163, acres would be too much for the recreation of so large a body of persons as dwelt in Southwark and upon the south side of the river; but the real fact was that, in the negotiations which took place for acquirement of the land, it was foreseen that unless some precautions were taken the acquirement of such a space would immediately raise the value of the property all round the Park, and it was in order to prevent private persons obtaining that advantage that the power was taken by the Board of Works to take more land than was actually to be devoted to the Park, in order that the ratepayers, at whose cost the Park was made, might reap any advantage that would result to the surrounding property from the maintenance of this open space. By the course they proposed taking the Metropolitan Board of Works hoped to return to the ratepayers a sum of nearly £36,000, which might possibly be used hereafter for the provision of another park in another part of the metropolis. He asked the House to consider whether it would not be beneath their dignity to pass a Resolution which would be a mere brutum fulmen, for they could not by a mere Resolution override an Act of Parliament. The proper course for his hon. and learned Friend to take would be to give notice of his intention to bring in a Bill to repeal the Act which conferred on the Board of Works the discretionary power they were now using; or if the proceedings of the Board could be proved to be ultra vires, it would be easy to obtain an injunction to prevent them proceeding in the course on which they had entered. He hoped his hon. and learned Friend would be content with the expression of opinion which had been elicited, an expression which would, no doubt, cause the Board to reconsider its decision, and if it should have the effect of producing an alteration in the direction sought by his hon. and learned Friend, he, for one, should feel gratified.

, in accepting the suggestion of his right hon. Friend and withdrawing his Amendment, hoped that, after what had been said, the Government would support the Bill of which he would give Notice for next Session.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.