LETTER: Government's commitment

From Mrs Virginia Bottomley, MP and Mr Michael Portillo, MP

Sir: We welcome your initiative to launch a series of articles provoking debate on the future of the Royal Naval College. The Government is firmly committed to giving all interested parties an opportunity to demonstrate their expertise and imagination in finding the best use for the College.

The College is not, as Jonathan Glancey writes ("Greenwich mean madness", 13 September), being "flogged to the private sector". It is, and will continue to be, held by the Defence Secretary in trust for the Crown for the exclusive benefit of the Greenwich Hospital. The freehold is not being privatised or sold, nor is the College being offered to the highest bidder.

The Government is firmly committed to identifying the best use for these magnificent buildings. Its future will be determined only after the most careful consideration of all suggestions. The National Maritime Museum and the University of Greenwich have already expressed interest. Within the Government, a restructured Defence School of Languages has been identified as a suitable occupant.

Jonathan Glancey failed to recognise the importance of planning and other consents required for any future use. In addition, we shall take into account the College's importance to the nation's heritage. Any future occupant will be required to participate in the management arrangements for inclusion in a World Heritage Site that the Department of National Heritage is pressing forward. We want the public to have better access to this unique group of buildings which, we are all agreed, are of outstanding cultural and heritage importance to the nation.

Yours faithfully,

Virginia Bottomley

Secretary of State for National Heritage

Michael Portillo

Secretary of State for Defence

London, SW1

14 September