Examination of Witnesses (Questions 270-289)|
TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2002
270. But you do not think it is likely?
(Mr Livingstone) No, not terribly likely. There might
be some improvement when we get the East London line built which
will be an extension of the East London line from its present
area all the way down to Croydon.
271. That project is a mile away. My understanding
is that the extension to Dalston Junction will be done by 2006
but there are no dates in the immediate short term prospect, and
the rest of it happening, is there?
(Mr Livingstone) We anticipate any day now the government's
decision to proceed with this and we would hope thatyou
are talking about up-grading existing track, not constructing
newwe would see this completed by about 2007, if we get
the government decision shortly.
272. On the quality of these highrise buildings,
the reality is that buildings like the Hilton Tower which may
be derided today were seen as examples of good architecture at
the time. You will no doubt be telling us that you would not make
those same mistakes and people will not be saying, "Look
what the Mayor approved back then, is it not awful?"
(Mr Livingstone) A lot of these are personal decisions.
Some members of the Greater London Assembly do not like tall buildings
273. But they do not have the society role so
it does not really matter, does it?
(Mr Livingstone) I think what does matter is this:
creating a directly elected Mayor who takes these decisions I
think empowers Londoners to determine how the City develops. The
decisions I have made could be a major feature of the next election.
274. I see. So after Haussmann, you see yourself
as Napoleon, is that it?
(Mr Livingstone) No. I have no military ambitions.
275. I think that will come as a relief!
(Mr Livingstone) The reality is that Londoners at
the moment have no real say; they are not part of the planning
process; the fiasco of the Terminal 5
276. But in you they will have in the future?
(Mr Livingstone) No. They will have the ability to
remove me. If Londoners do not want tall buildings, they will
get themselves another Mayor, therefore I think the mayoral system
does mean the way in which the City is developing becomes part
of the active popular debate and will feature at the next election.
They may very well elect a mayor committed to saying, "I
am going to put a direct refusal on the lot".
277. In the meantime, you may be in favour of
quality tall buildings. Could you give us three examples in London
of quality tall buildings which fit in well with their surroundings?
(Mr Livingstone) I think Centrepoint, though I do
not think at the base it fits in well with its surroundings.
278. As an example of what?
(Mr Livingstone) As an example of a building which
I find attractive.
Mrs Dunwoody: I think we have a problem with
279. It is pretty grotty underneath, is it not?
(Mr Livingstone) That is the problem. The London County
Council accepted an absolutely pathetic planning gain in exchange
for that; nowadays we get substantially more. I would say Millbank
Tower. Whereas I would reject
280. Another masterpiece of architectural delight!
(Mr Livingstone) But these are matters of personal
281. Yes. When one person has the final say,
(Mr Livingstone) This is one of the reasons I was
opposed to a directly elected mayor initially, but I have warmed
to it since I have been the person!
Mr Betts: Can you give me a good example?
282. You are doing well. Think of a third one.
(Mr Livingstone) If you take the Post Office Tower,
all three of those have now been listed. I do think the Renzo
Piano Tower in terms of what I have initially seen, and I have
yet to make a determination on that when it comes up, will be
a similar landmark building, the Swiss Re Tower, the Heron Towerall
of these add value both to the skyline and to the City. On views,
when I look down from Primrose Hill or Hampstead, my eye is not
drawn to St Paul's or the House of Commons, which usually is barely
distinguishable in the murk, but to the tall buildings; to Canary
Wharf and the Post Office Tower.
Mrs Dunwoody: You should try standing in some
of the other boroughs, looking up.
283. On the examples you have given us, you
said earlier if we built at lower density we would remove all
the open space, but if you look at the open space around Millbank
or Centrepoint, it is derelict. It is overshadowed, windy, there
are major servicing areasyou cannot get away from these
problems with tall build, However well you design them to appear
from a distance.
(Mr Livingstone) That was the downside of those buildings.
There was very little planning gain for the community; it was
a time when developers had a field day, did not put back much,
and in terms of what we now get from the proposal for Heron Tower,
you open up the area at the base, the public have access, it will
provide shopping in an area where there are not very good shopping
facilities and there is the openness also. In virtually all of
these buildings we now require a viewing platform for the public
so they get to enjoy the views as well in a way that is not the
case Centrepoint or Millbank or the Post Office Tower. The public
lost that right.
284. You believe you can create friendly public
areas around the base of these tall buildings that will enhance
people's enjoyment of the environment?
(Mr Livingstone) I believe that is what we are doing.
If you look at the planning gain we are now getting, the most
recent example is not a tall building though it does push at the
height restrictions of Islington council development which is
the Arsenal development, where something like 15 per cent of the
value of the scheme is going back into the community in terms
of range of support for child care, health facilities and open
space and so on. If we had 15 per cent of the profit of Centrepoint
or Millbank Tower ploughed into the surrounding areas, they would
be very different schemes.
285. If you look at Canary Wharf and some of
the most successful tall buildings in the United States, they
tend not to have open space underneath. Is there a danger that
the desire to promote inclusion politically will mean that the
attraction of creating a public open space underneath which is
available to all might outweigh the fact that there is a danger
that those areas become derelict in the way others have done,
and you might be better off with a totally enclosed building down
to ground level like Canary Wharf or the United States?
(Mr Livingstone) Well, the base of Heron Tower is
enclosed and, when you went to Canary Wharf at the beginning,
it was unbelievably bleak. Clearly Canary Wharf is now at that
point of critical mass where there are enough people working and
shopping there; it had a setback on September 11 because a lot
of people went straight home but, as Canary Wharf moves from its
present 47,000 employees to 100,000 at the end of the decade,
it will be alive and bustling; there will be new housing to be
built at Stratford, there will be a much closer commuting zone
in the sense that Stratford will be a shopping and housing centre
for the people who work at Canary Wharf so it is coming together.
It was very badly planned. In America nobody would conceive of
starting a project like Canary Wharf before they put the Underground
in. They would not come along afterwards.
286. You told Mrs Dunwoody that people would
judge you on tall building at the next mayoral election. Are you
seriously saying to us that the next mayoral election will be
a referendum on tall buildings?
(Mr Livingstone) I rather hope it will be a referendum
on the government's policy on the Underground myself, but I suspect
that Simon Jenkins and many of my critics will make sure it will
be an issue, but it will not be the only one. It will be the first
time Londoners at the ballot box can affect the way these things
happen. All the rest of it has been done in private, in planning
committees, more recently they have been open to the public but
the public have no real influence on these major decisions. They
will now, and I am certain that some of my opponents in the next
election will run on a clear commitment to end this policy and
that means that Londoners will make a choice themselves that will
listen to the economic case. In the same sense that Gwyneth said
it is a matter of individual taste, it will be a matter for 7
million Londoners' individual taste about what they want in the
287. It has been suggested that you are being
influenced on this policy by people who have their own interest
in tall buildings, whether they be developers or architects. What
would you say to such criticisms?
(Mr Livingstone) I would say that one of the reasons
it was felt I would be an unsuitable Labour candidate was that
I was not controllable, and I followed my own views on far too
many things. That is exactly what I have done here. I was born
and brought up in this City; I love it and its diversity; I like
high buildings. The influence
288. You like Centrepoint. You have a problem.
(Mr Livingstone) I was one of those who helped to
occupy it 25 years ago when it was left empty
289. There you are. You have a real problem!
(Mr Livingstone) I think it is an attractive landmark
building in central London, but these are matters of taste. It
is not just taste; there is an economic case. If we set ourselves
against this, some of these firms will not come here. London will
survive but in a city where you have half a million people virtually
permanently out of work, the prospect of half a million new jobs
coming in business services, providing we can re-skill people
to take these job opportunities, is a huge temptation.