Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 190-209)




  190. The Bristol Visual and Environmental Group do not seem to be very impressed with the planning department. Is that unfair?
  (Mr Brook) I think that is again a strong statement. We do work very well with that particular group and have done so for many years. That particular group is much more interested in the heritage and the conservation areas of Bristol and has a very clear view in terms of wishing to preserve the character of the city. In some cases, that does conflict with the need to modernise, the need to bring in new buildings and the need to actually move forward our regeneration areas. I think they would accept the fact that the city needs to change but that they find it much more difficult to accommodate the fact that some of the interaction with historic buildings may not be the way in which they would proceed themselves.

  191. As far as Birmingham is concerned, do you think that the Arena Central Tower is going to be sustainable?
  (Mr Brown) I think it would be, yes. Its proposed approved form has a complete mix of uses in it. It is going to provide a lively frontage at ground level; it is well integrated into the location where it is proposed; it is part of a larger development; it is not a tower just on its own.

  192. When you say "mixed development", do you mean that people will be able to sleep there, work there, eat there and shop there?
  (Mr Brown) That is how I understand it, yes. It is not self-contained in that sort of sense. You never have to leave the building.

  193. So you will have more people going past each other, some going out and some coming in?
  (Mr Brown) Yes.

  194. Do you think the lifts and everything else can really work efficiently for a building of that size?
  (Mr Brown) The developers think so, yes.

Mrs Dunwoody

  195. It is not quite the same thing, is it?
  (Mr Brown) I suppose I am being slightly cagey here.

  196. If we rely on judgments from developers, we will get ourselves into even more trouble.
  (Mr Brown) One of the problems with that sort of thing is clearly that recent events, September 11 and all the rest of it, are bound to make one reconsider the sort of provision of lifts, escapes and how they work and how the whole thing functions in terms of safety, and I think that process needs to be gone through. We are at the moment engaging with the developers and with other people in a working party to look at the sort of conclusions that are coming out of North America and elsewhere about the implications for tall building design to make sure that we do come up with something which is sustainable and effective.

Sir Paul Beresford

  197. Do you not think that our building requirements are very different to the building requirements for those towns?
  (Mr Brown) Clearly the scale of those is enormous by comparison.

  198. The standards that we require of the engineers and the construction industry are very much stronger here than over there.
  (Mr Brown) That is, I hope, true, yes. I am sure that we should be making sure that we do learn from what is the experience abroad. For example, the actual structure and approach that was used for the design of those towers is different to any other towers and the analysis at the moment seems to be suggesting that actually that was a very good form of construction and that they lasted a lot better than one might have been expected. There were some really serious shortcomings in the way the buildings were constructed then. We have some pretty good standards.

  Chairman: On that note, thank you very much for your evidence.

Examination of Witnesses

DAVID LE LAY, Chairman, The Chelsea Society, TONY TUGNUTT, Chair and HAZEL MCKAY, Transport Adviser, Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee, examined.


  199. Can I welcome you to the second session this morning. Can I ask you to identify yourselves for the record, please.
  (Mr Le Lay) I am Mr David Le Lay; I am Chairman of the Chelsea Society.
  (Mr Tugnutt) I am Tony Tugnutt and I chair the Bloomsbury Conservation Area Advisory Committee.
  (Ms McKay) I am Hazel McKay and I give general planning advice and support to Mr Tugnutt.

  200. Do any of you want to say anything by way of introduction or are you happy to go straight to questions?
  (Mr Tugnutt) Chairman, I would like briefly to say something about the area of London that we cover because in fact we cover all conservation areas in Camden south of the Euston Road and not just Bloomsbury and that includes Gray's Inn, Lincoln's Inn, Covent Garden and Fitzrovia; so we cover a rather broader area.

  Chairman: We move to the questions.

Mrs Ellman

  201. Could you tell us why you are opposed to the Mayor's policy on tall buildings?
  (Mr Tugnutt) We are very concerned about the Mayor's policy on tall buildings partly because of the way it has emerged. Ms McKay and myself gave evidence at the Heron inquiry and it was quite clear that that development was being put forward as a means of pre-empting the spatial development strategy and this has been raised by members of the Assembly; so that it would actually mean that there would be a precedent and indeed the Mayor has said in his The Independent newspaper articles that he sees the Heron Tower as setting a precedent for other developments. In her evidence before the Select Committee last week, Ms Mayhew said that there is a part of the city that has been identified as being appropriate for high buildings. In fact, that is not correct because in its UDP which is currently with the Secretary of State—it is going to its final stage—the area that the Mayor has identified in the city—it is the so-called Mayor's triangle which is south of Liverpool Street Station—is defined as being sensitive to high buildings. Other areas of the city are defined as being inappropriate for high buildings. So there is no part of the city area which is controlled by the Corporation that has been identified as being appropriate for high buildings.

  202. Are you saying then that you are opposed to where you think the Mayor wants to place the high buildings rather than high buildings in general?
  (Mr Tugnutt) Part of the problem is that we are not really practised in considering high buildings because we have not really had high buildings in London for a very long time.


  203. What about Canary Wharf?
  (Mr Tugnutt) Indeed, with the exception of Canary Wharf. I think that Ms Mayhew said that it was important that we offered developers and leading financial institutions the choice. Indeed, they had the choice and the crucial relationship which now exists between Canary Wharf and the city came out at the inquiry. I cross-examined Lord Rogers who was appearing on behalf of the Mayor and I asked him whether he would agree with me that in fact Canary Wharf was in effect our la defence and he agreed whereas the City had tried to suggest that in fact it is this area, the so-called Mayor's triangle, which is la defence. Our view is that it should be open to the Government to actually say that we do not want high buildings in parts of London. We can all agree on the criteria in CABE, and English Heritage have produced a criteria which most people would sign up to, but we believe that there should be scope for the Government, clearly the Mayor is not going to do it, and I believe that the future of London is a national issue. I think it is something that affects our national identity and therefore I do not think it is just for those of us in London who should have the determining say on what happens here, I think it is something for the whole country and I think we are particularly pleased that the Select Committee has looked into this matter.

  (Mr Le Lay) We in Chelsea are very alarmed at the Mayor's policy which seems to be "the only way to go is up" which is the way it has been paraphrased. I think that, to some extent, we from Bloomsbury and Chelsea are representing, in a way, amenity societies up and down the country and if you look at the work of amenity societies, which on the whole are articulate civic minded people, they have always been against tall buildings and still are and I therefore think that we are really looking to the Government to have clear policies and to provide clear strategic policies for London which is—and I agree with my colleague here—too important to be left to the Mayor especially if one has a maverick mayor who seems to have fallen in love with tall buildings.

Mrs Ellman

  204. Are you saying that you and people like you are against the idea of tall buildings anywhere or is it back to the location and what is appropriate in a given location?
  (Mr Le Lay) I think it is true to say that we are against tall buildings anywhere.


  205. You would have been opposed to St Paul's?
  (Mr Le Lay) No. That is the argument that is always used . . .

Sir Paul Beresford

  206. Would you be opposed to Battersea Power Station?
  (Mr Le Lay) The Chelsea Society has been going since 1927 and we did oppose Battersea Power Station on the grounds of pollution.

  207. On the grounds of pollution but on the grounds that it was tall?
  (Mr Le Lay) Also that it was tall. One of the first buildings we opposed was Battersea Power Station.

  208. When there is a move to knock it down, what is your . . .?
  (Mr Le Lay) I think it is half knocked down already, is it not?

  209. No; the centre has gone and I am praying. What is the opinion of the Chelsea Society now because there has been a lot of rumbling going on in the last 10 or 15 years about the power station? Would you want it preserved?
  (Mr Le Lay) Looking at it from a purely parochial point of view, it is devastating on the main axis of Sir Christopher Wren's Royal Hospital.

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