Examination of Witnesses (Questions 660-680)|
THOROTON, QC AND
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
660. But you will tell us, my Lord.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Indeed I will. You merely
have to ask and I will immediately supply all that you wish.
Mrs Dunwoody: At least it always expands my
vocabulary when I talk to you, my Lord.
661. I would like to declare an interest in
that my husband works for an American airline company but we have
not actually discussed this. I was very taken by what you said,
my Lord, that you are awaiting evidence from the Americans.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Material from the Americans.
662. Was there a particular design fault with
the World Trade Centre buildings that they collapsed so quickly?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know.
663. Will you be considering future design of
tall buildings in this country to make sure that that design feature
will be taken on board?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I do not know what the
position in relation to that is. I am being told, and this seems
sensible, that material will emerge from what happened on 11 September
and we obviously need to be informed by that as far as it is relevant
to what we do about safety in tall buildings here.
664. Are you aware of any buildings in this
country that would collapse in the same way?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am not aware of any
such buildings, no.
665. Some of our witnesses have indicated that,
in their view, your view
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In their view, my view?
666. The Government view is that if something
is well-designed then it is acceptable. Do you agree with that?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) No. Good design plainly
could not of itself be sufficient. You would be quite wrong to
build a well-designed building for which there was, for example,
no economically sustainable future or, for example, no transport
infrastructure that could sustain it. It is much, much more than
issues about design.
667. Going back to what we were discussing earlier,
do you consider there is a need for greater protection to historic
towns and cities or even conservation areas within cities to protect
historic views, etcetera?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) There are already protections
in place, the listing system, etcetera. English Heritage is, as
it were, the guardian of the historic heritage. I think the protection
that is currently in place is sufficient.
668. So you would not agree with the Vice Chairman
of CABE who informed us that most people walk along looking down
at the pavements?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think it is a different
question as to whether there needs to be protection of the historic
669. But the view is part of this surely?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not enough interest in
the historic environment? I do not think that that would necessarily
be increased by greater protection for it. There may be things
that people can do to draw attention more to the historic environment
but I do not think any legal changes are required it protect it.
670. So you think that all local authorities,
if they are in historic towns and villages, faced with a demand
to build a very tall building on the outskirts, have sufficient
protection in your existing rules? Is that what you are telling
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think that the legal
structure is fine.
671. Are you confident that we are not about
to repeat the mistakes of the 1960s by building tall buildings
in the wrong places which by the time they are actually completed
there will be no takers for them anyhow, which is what happened
with a number of buildings in the 1960s?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) If that happened it would
be a massive failure of the planning system.
672. Who should decide the economic case for
a tall building, the market or should it be the Government?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) It is for the local authority
to decide whether or not there is an economic case for the particular
tall building. That will depend inevitably on how it is to be
supported and if it depends upon market take-up of places in the
tall building then the market will, in effect, be the determinant.
Chairman: The British Property Federation put
to us fairly firmly that they did not think local authorities
had the skills to judge the economic case and that it was much
better to leave it to the market.
673. And if the local authority around Canary
Wharf had decided there was an economic case for filling that
up, they would have had to have waited ten years for that to happen.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The local authority, the
planning authority must have some role in this. It cannot just
be a situation where it is said, "Although all the indications
are that nobody wants to work in this particular building (taking
a hypothetical building) nevertheless we will just let you build
it." That cannot be the way we deal with it.
Sir Paul Beresford
674. Could it not work the other way round?
They could say, "Sure it is going to be filled", etcetera,
etcetera, and then it is not? Is that not making them slightly
liable as part of the backing of that building and its not being
let, and it being vulnerable to an ambitious lawyer?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Obviously mistakes will
be made and judgments will be wrong without people acting badly,
but there needs to be for any building, tall or otherwise, some
justification that it is a sustainable development, whether it
be a tall building, whether it be Broadgate, whether it be a housing
development, and the local authority as the planning authority
plainly have got a role.
675. The main role is for the man with the cheque.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The man with the cheque
believes, presumably, that there is some sustainable future for
it. I do not believe it is right for a local authority to say
if there is a man with a cheque prepared to build a building,
that is fine by me. They have got to look to see whether there
is a sustainable future for this building and that will involve
from time to time looking at the economics of the sustainability
of the building.
676. Do you see tall buildings as being part
of a driver for regeneration?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Well-designed buildings
in the right place, with the right transport infrastructure, whether
tall or not, can most certainly be a driver.
677. Congratulations, my Lord, I think that
must the longest number of subjunctive clauses in one sentence
we have heard this morning.
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I think there was one
678. We are not going to argue about English
grammar. Can you give us an example of anywhere else other than
Canary Wharf where it can be argued that tall buildings have made
a significant contribution to urban regeneration?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) You mean areas that were
economically deprived and have now become economically regenerated?
Not areas where there is already existing economic activity like
for example the City of London?
679. Could you give us one?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Not at this particular
moment I cannot, no.
680. You would love to write to us?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) "Love" may be
Chairman: On that note can I thank you very
much for your evidence. I should have asked for the Committee's
approval at the beginning that the uncorrected transcript should
go on the Internet as soon as possible.
Mrs Dunwoody: Where it will be quite clear for
all the public to read.
Chairman: Thank you.