22 JULY 1972, Page 28

Declining voters

Sir: — As representative of a ward whose electorate has declined by 13.5 per cent in two years, I heartily support the view expressed in last week's edition by the Pimlico Tenants' and Residents' Association — that empty residential buildings are the most urgent problem.

In answer to a question at the April Westminster City Council meeting, I was told that thirtyeight properties were empty in one Pimlico square alone, but that it was not possible to prove that the landlords were keeping them empty intentionally. Mr. Geoffrey Finsberg's Bill to increase rates for empty property could cover this. Security of tenure is imperative for the long-established impecunious furnished tenant. The 1966 Census figures showed 24 per cent of Westminster households were furnished (33 per cent in Pimlico). Since then they have been forced to move in droves. It is welcome news that the Government appears to be favourably inclined to giving security to unfurnished tenants with a rateable value over £400 in London.

However I am not convinced that London needs its own Minister. Even if planning mistakes have been made about Hyde Park Corner and Queen Anne's Mansions, the local authority has the power to control this in future. With Knightsbridge Barracks the relevant Minister of the time had complete control anyway; the local authority could only express an opinion.

In the case of Piccadilly Circus, I think that Westminster Council behaved absolutely correctly in seeking the public's reaction to the comprehensive scheme proposed in the potential developers' application. As one of the members of the sub-committee just set up to examine all the applications and to recommend views for the Minister's inquiry, I will certainly bear in mind what appear to be the public's opinions, particularly concerning height and bulk of building and loss of life and atmosphere. Having lived for some months recently in Stag Place, Victoria Street, I appreciate at first hand the depressing and claustrophobic effect of the "dead areas" described by Christopher Tugendhat in the House.

. Arthur Johnston (Councillor, Warwick Ward) Westminster City Hall,

Victoria Street, London, SW1