Commons May Have Broken Planning Law; Londoner's Diary

Article excerpt

IT MAKES our laws -- so what should be done when it breaks them? The House of Commons would appear to have committed a criminal offence when it began to create a 40-place creche on the first floor of a listed building in Parliament Street without having the legal consent required. The offence, under conservation legislation, was created by Parliament, which set the penalty as a fine of up to [pounds sterling]20,000. The House has duly been lambasted by Westminster Council.

In April an application was made by the Commons' corporate officer, Adam Watrobski, for the conversion of part of the 1880-built Grade II-listed building once known as Parliament Square House, which is a part of the Parliamentary Estate and lies within the Whitehall Conservation Area. But work on the creche began before permission was granted, which is not allowed in the case of listed building applications.

Alan Bradley, Westminster Council's veteran chairman of the Planning Applications sub-committee, tells me: "We were astounded to be told that work in constructing this nursery was already well under way, before planning consent had been granted. …