Memorandum by SAVE Britain's Heritage
(SAVE) (TAB 02)
There are three very separate issues encapsulated
in this point which the Sub Committee wishes to examine.
1. Tall buildings and high densities in
residential areas. High density does not necessarily equate with
high-rise. Some of the densest residential areas in London are
not to be found where high-rise buildings are commonplace, but
in the Georgian and Victorian terraces which typify so much of
London. These vary from three to five storeys, and are capable
of sub division into high-density flats. The low-rise nature of
these areas is in itself something highly appreciated by residentsthe
sky which they can see from their streets is not closed off by
It ought be noted that where high rise residential
buildings have been constructed in the past, the lack of communal
space within the buildings has been compensated for by creating
open space around the base of the buildings. While this may be
desirable, it has not been successful in creating a community
spirit within these buildingsverticle living has in fact
resulted in precisely the oppositethe break up of traditional
communities and patterns of life.
Where high rise residential buildings have been
built and maintained by the public sector they have almost invariably
failed through the shortage of funds that typifies so many housing
authorities. It is much more expensive to maintain a high rise
building than it is to maintain a low rise terrace, and so from
a best value stand point, if not a community stand point, high
rise is far from ideal for residential.
In the few cases where tall residential buildings
have been built or refurbished and maintained by the private sector,
they have been successful, albeit very expensiveas maintenance
2. The role of tall buildings in the provision
of offices for certain types of global companies.
By their very nature, the occupants of this
type of building will want to be located close to other large
business buildings. If there really is a clear need for a high
building as opposed to a ground hugging building, then there needs
to be a clear set national policy stating where these buildings
can and cannot go. At present there are a whole series of policies
relating to tall buildings, but not actually addressing the issue
head on. Such a policy must say where such buildings can go, and
what heights they can be built. The recent Heron Tower Inquiry
showed what an utter absence of policy there is, as well as highlighting
how in the past policies had been ignored by Government. If a
policy is to be set up (which is essential), it is of the utmost
importance that it is adhered to by all.
3. The role of tall buildings in enhancing
the beauty of our cities.
The cities of the UK are essentially low rise,
with the occasional high rise building dating from the 1960s or
70s. Other buildings which break the scale and rhythm or our cities
are usually public buildings, such as town halls, churches and
cathedrals. While America's cities were growing tall in the 1930s
the UK resisted the urge, and indeed this is recognised later
in the century in the planning of "new towns" of the
UKMilton Keynes, for example, is remarkable for its low
It is quite hard to see from previous attempts
at building high in the UK how tall buildings can enhance the
beauty of our towns. The morphology of our cities is entirely
different from many of those in the USA which have tall buildingsthe
uniform grid pattern which is found in New York, for example,
means that none of the tall buildings there have the effect of
closing off the streets, whereas the irregular, tight knit street
patterns found in UK cities mean that tall buildings often have
the effect of closing off the sky at the end of streets.
Tall buildings represent an enormous increase
in resource use on one site, as well as a massive increase in
land values for the owners of the site. Everything should be done
to ensure that tall buildings give as much back to the environment
as is possible, be it through the use of photovoltaic cells, or
by collecting rainwater for recycling etc. There must also be
provision of some form of public amenity at ground level.
Once the issue of whether a tall building is
really needed by its developers/users has been resolved, this
issue is of vital importance. Pepperpotting must not be allowed.
The effect that scattered towers have had on the townscape of
London and other cities in the UK has been disastrous, and must
not be repeated. Well planned clusters are the only real alternativethese
required good planning and a lot of foresight on the part of the
planners, and areas in which they are planned should be subject
to rigorous masterplanning.
While we do not accept that the case for high
rise buildings has been made, the only clearly acceptable places
for additional high rise buildings in London are within the City
of London, but not at the expense of historic buildings which
contribute to townscape; and secondly at Canary Wharf.
No clusters should be designated without: i.
extensive consultations with locals, resulting in their acceptance
of high rise; ii. The agreement of the buyer concerned.
Planning policy is essentially a function of
London's Boroughs. We consider that over the last 15 years since
the abolition of the GLC boroughs have usually shown a greater
sensitivity than the old GLC, for while the GLC played an important
role in winning and providing protection for historic buildings
and historic areas, it also had a record of drawing up damaging
schemes for comprehensive redevelopment, for example, the six
lane road parallel to the Strand which it proposed should run
through the central market area in Covent Garden.
Building which are recognised by the Government
to be of historic or architectural importance through their inclusion
of the Statutory list must be treated with the utmost care and
diligence. A high building close to a listed building can interfere
and in case destroy the setting of that building, detracting from
its value. This would be contrary to Government policy concerning
the historic environment.
High rise buildings must not be allowed to interfere
with views of national or local significancefrom historically
important views of St Paul from London's river bridges, to the
view from urban parks, which provide in many towns a pleasant
escape from the reality of city life, to cherished local views,
be they of the church or of the local pub. Far too views have,
in our opinion, been protected.
There needs to be, therefore the strongest guidance
as to where such buildings can be built, if indeed they need to
be built at all.
Are we in danger of repeating the mistakes of
As yet, there has been little to indicate that
developers, architects (and those advising the Mayor of London)
have learned the lessons from the 1960s. The present rash of towers
planned for London Shows this all to wellpepperpotted from
Battersea to London Bridge with little or no regard to their surroundings
or how they relate to one another. Again, this highlights the
desperate need for a clear, coherent policy on tall buildings.
The policy that has been offered up by the Mayor of London as
interim guidance on tall buildings in London is entirely insufficient,
and amounts to little more than a free for all.
Are those making the decisions sufficiently accountable
to the public?
There are certain aspects of current decision
making regime that are worrying, and more so in London than anywhere
else. In the recent Heron Towner Inquiry, we have seen how the
Mayor, the Corporation of London, big business and architects
have a relationship which can only be described as cosy. The Mayor's
advisor on urban issues, Lord Rogers, has tall buildings in the
pipeline for London, while the Mayor's decisions are not accountable
to any committee scrutiny. There is potentially a conflict of
interests in this situation which would work to the benefit of
business and to the detriment of the environment in which we live.
Should the Government have a more explicit policy
on the subject?
SAVE believes that the Government does need
a policy governing the issue of tall buildings, which should be
strictly adhered to.