CATHEDRAL: AMAZING PLAN
L.C.C. TO FOOT 'VISTA' BILL?
By Terence McQueen
THE whole setting of Westminster Cathedral is to be completely altered under a revolutionary redevelopment scheme now being finalised by the London County Council planning authority.
if the scheme is fully implemented, the whole architectural glory of the cathedral will dominate one of London's most important thoroughfares. Victoria Street — scene of pageantry and pomp on State occasions, when heads of State arrive at nearby Victoria Station.
At present, the cathedral stands almost unnoticed by the thousands of passersby in Victoria Street. It is hemmed in by a block of six-storey buildings straggling within a few yards of its main entrance across space which should he open land if the cathedral is to be at all adequately shown off.
This undistinguished position has long been the roe of London's planners. Now at last, apparently. they are going to do something about it.
In the redevelopment scheme. eight acres of buildings near the cathedral are involved. The plans, which are to be made public within the next few months, provide for nearly half a mile of frontage on Victoria Street to he pulled down; included in this frontage is some 4013 feet of property which is blocking the view to the cathedral.
"The question of opening up the view to the cathedral is one of the most important problems under discussion", a London County Council spokesman told me this week. "This property in Victoria Street must come down because it is so old and antiquated. But the land is valued at a fantastic price — it's such a valuable frontage. If a space in front of the cathedral is to be kept open, the London County Council would have to buy the land. The price would be high. A compulsory purchase order might be the only solution."
About 75 per cent of the property involved in the redevelopment scheme is owned by the Church of England. The cathedral owns numbers 21-28a Ashley Place which. being at the rear of Victoria Street, is included in the string of property at present blocking the cathedral view. if this property is demolished under the re-development scheme, Burns Oates an i the Catholic Truth Society there will have to find new premises.