Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by SAVE Britain's Heritage (SAVE) (TAB 02(a))


  The Sky is not the Limit: The height of towers in London is constrained by the flight paths into Heathrow and London City airports. The Civil Aviation Authority has set a limit of 1000 ft for buildings in central London. Any proposal approved for buildings above that height will be referred to the Secretary of State at the DETR as dangerous.

  Hyde Park is not Central Park: The beauty of the Royal Parks, admired around the world, is the sense of rus in urbe, of apparently boundless countryside within the capital. Though punctured in certain placed by the towers of the Hilton and Royal Lancaster hotels and Knightsbridge barracks, the horizon in many parts of the Royal Parks remains filled with trees, not buildings, providing beauty, air, and space that all Londoners can enjoy. This is a precious asset which must be protected, ideally by seeking World Heritage status for the Royal Parks which they surely deserve.

  Safeguard the protected views: Central London has a limited number of protected views, several of them from vantage points at the heights above the central plain—from Hampstead, Highgate and Greenwich. It has been suggested that the dome of St. Paul's is insignificant from these views—this is simply not true.

  No license to print money: Any planning permission to build a high rise tower in place of much lower buildings increases the value of the site and constitutes a vast planning gain. Developers who are given such permissions must be made to make a permanent and substantial contribution to the public realm in terms of amenity. In many cases tight sites make the creation of outdoor space impossible (and piazzas are rarely desirable beneath towers). The gain must be provided by public space and amenities within the building at both lower and upper levels, secured in such a way that the local authority is bound in law to ensure public access is maintained.

  Say where the towers should go: If London is to have more high rise buildings, it is essential to identify in advance a select number of sites—in the City and Canary Wharf for example, where high rise building will be considered—to prevent a rash of applications all over London which will have a blighting effect on surrounding areas.

  Uphold the protection of listed buildings: there are a sufficient number of sites in the City and Docklands where towers can be built without involving the demolition of buildings of special historic and architectural interest.

  Every Borough does not need a virility symbol: There is a danger that London Boroughs, left to themselves, will compete with each other in approving tower proposals. The greater attraction of London as a World City is that it has so many exceptionally pleasant and attractive residential areas, where people can live in tranquil surroundings, with their own gardens, hardly conscious that they are in a busy city. Great caution must be exercised on any tower proposal overlooking a residential area, and wide ranging consultation carried out.

  Local Views: Towers can intrude on views which are much valued by local people—across a local park, square or green, or behind a church spire, or a well frequented pub, as well as larger and more obvious landmarks.

  Environmental Impact Studies: Every tower proposed must be subject to an independent Environmental Impact Study, commissioned at the developer's expense, but not edited or censored by him. This must address the questions of viability, shadowing and microclimate, especially downdraughts created by around high-rise buildings. Every proposal should be subject to rigorous wind tunnel tests to determine the impact on neighbouring streets and open spaces.

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Prepared 22 January 2002