Letter: Taking responsibility for the `Versailles of London'

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Sir: In addition to its intrinsic architectural and historic values, the Royal Naval College at Greenwich forms an integral part of one of the finest landscape compositions in this country.

In his opening speech to the conference, in March this year, to consider the Royal Parks Review Group's report on Greenwich Park, Stephen Dorrell, the then Secretary of State for National Heritage, spoke of the Naval College, the Queen's House, the National Maritime Museum and the Park as the "Versailles of London" - and described as "an attractive and powerful idea" the group's recommendation that the axis linking them all to the Thames be opened up to public access, thereby bringing "different parts of the site into a single and more coherent whole".

Mr Dorrell went on to explain the extent of responsibility of the Secretary of State for National Heritage in the future of Greenwich - as Royal Parks Minister, as Minister responsible for National Museums, as Minister responsible for Listed Buildings, as Chair of the Millennium Commission and as Tourism Minister. It is to be hoped that Mr Dorrell's successor, Virginia Bottomley, is equally appreciative of the wide range of those responsibilities and of the need to understand the Naval College as part of a composition extending from Island Gardens on the Isle of Dogs, site of Canaletto's paintings, and right through the park to All Saints church on Blackheath.

This whole composition of landscape and buildings should form part of the World Heritage Site for which Mrs Bottomley's department is pressing (Letters, 18 September) and it should be managed as a whole and be fully accessible - as a recreation resource for Londoners, as a national treasure and as a global tourist attraction.

Yours faithfully,

Alan Tate


Landscape Institute

London, SW11

19 September