Memorandum by London First (TAB 07)
London First is a not-for-profit business membership
organisation, set up in 1992 with the specific aim of improving
and promoting London. London First has over 300 business members,
plus NHS Trusts, Universities, and Further Education Colleges.
London First members take an active role in
the formulation and implementation of policy that affects the
capital and its economic success. Our key activities include:
campaigning for a world-class transport system, promoting London's
wealth-generating sectors, encouraging sustainable investment,
promoting London's cultural diversity and building on the skills
base. London First also lobbies the Mayor and central government
on a variety of issues, including influencing the Mayor's spatial
development, economic development and transport strategies, and
calling for planning reform.
London First Centre, a wholly owned subsidiary
of London First, is the inward investment agency for London. Over
500 companies from 32 countries have now been helped to invest
in London, leading to the creation or safeguarding of 30,000 jobs.
London First's evidence is based on the views
of its members and the requirements of the inward investors which
London First Centre deals with.
The role of tall buildings in achieving high
densities in residential areas; the provision of offices for certain
types of global companies and as a means of enhancing the beauty
of our cities.
The provision of offices for certain types of
global companies is of paramount importance in ensuring London's
and the UK's long-term prosperity. To compete globally, London
and its built environment must be able to adapt quickly and effectively.
The recent rapid growth caused by globalisation,
merger and acquisition and shifts in the market place has had
a marked effect on demand. In particular, there is a trend towards
consolidation of financial and business services and professional
firms in order to create big enough units to compete internationally.
As a result, there is a demand for large buildings to enable staff
in a number of locations to be brought together. The recent development
of the HSBC and Citigroup towers at Canary Wharf, and the Swiss
Re building at Bishopsgate are cases in point. The decision of
Barclays to move to Canary Wharf is another example of the changing
needs of business.
There is also a need for flexible space to allow
smaller businesses the freedom to grow and adapt without having
to constantly uproot themselves. Larger buildings make this more
practical. Given the limited space available in locations where
demand from investors is greatest, the only way to expand the
supply of office space is to increase height.
Tall buildings can play a role in achieving high
densities in urban areas:
London's population is expanding rapidly, and
is forecast by the GLA to reach 8.1m by 2016. Demand for housing
is massively outstripping supply already, and we are nowhere near
meeting the forecast amount of housing needed. New and innovative
solutions to the problem must be found, and building high-rise
residential blocks can be part of this.
City-centre living can play a huge part in alleviating
the strain on London's transport infrastructure. High-rise building
is a practical and desirable means of achieving this. Tall buildings
in or near city centres can also help improve urban life if some
of the accommodation is reserved for employees who keep vital
Many of the problems associated with residential
high-rise stem from inappropriate use. High-rise living is not
suitable for families with young children or older people. However,
new, mixed-use developments could be very attractive to young
single people or couples. For a sense of community to flourish,
the residents must be happy to be there, not desperate to move
out. The rejuvenation and current popularity of the Trellick Tower
in North Kensington is one example of this. However, the high
cost of managing tall buildings means a high service charge, and
this must be taken into account.
Enhancing the beauty of our cities:
Well-designed tall buildings can enhance the
urban environment and have a place in the diverse landscapes of
cities. Appropriate and innovative landmark buildings are an essential
part of a city's fabric and can contribute valuable space to the
public realm. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment
(CABE), found that good urban design, "adds economic, social
and environmental value". Good design produces high return
on investments, responds to occupier demand and raises the prestige
of the area. Well connected, inclusive and accessible new places
with a broad range of facilities open to all boost civic pride
and enhance civic image.
The sustainability of tall buildings, in particular
in terms of construction, transport and long term flexibility
The Mayor's, "London Plan" states
as a key principle that "high density trip generating development
and redevelopment should be focused at locations accessible by
public transport". Maximising public transport use can best
be achieved by locating as much development as possible at major
transport hubs. Tall buildings in accessible locations are guaranteed
sustained use. This can be achieved most effectively by locating
tall buildings where there are plans to increase public transport
capacitysuch as at Paddington Basin or Liverpool Street,
which will be connected by CrossRail.
Mixed-use developments allow varied space and
flexibility. Tower 42 and the proposed Heron Tower at Bishopsgate
allow for perspective and existing tenants changing space requirements.
Single-use towers can quite easily be converted into multi-occupancy.
The high cost of demolishing tall buildings is one means of guaranteeing
their long term survival. Several former office blocks across
London have been converted into desirable residential accommodation.
Architects and developers use modern, efficient
construction methods and recycled materials. Most architects now
routinely follow the basic principles of energy conservation in
buildingsusing high-tech ventilating systems to heat and
move the air around. Power generation from solar panels, such
as on the proposed Heron Tower at Bishopsgate also show how tall
buildings have became environmentally viable. Tall buildings can
often leave a smaller "ecological footprint" than conventional
housing or office space, and residents and businesses can share
facilities, using less energy and producing less waste.
Where tall building should be located, including:
What restrictions, if any, should be placed on
the location of tall buildings, and how far they should be allowed
to block existing views; and whether they should be clustered
Clusters tend to look more attractive than single
buildings, and make more sense from a business perspective. However,
single buildings can work if they are "landmarks" in
city centres. The obvious mistakes of the past have been mostly
single buildings at outlying locations, which are incongruous,
unattractive and problematic to access.
From a business perspective, clusters work,
and are less obtrusive, and government planning policy should
support and nurture this. The clustering of tall buildings also
makes practical sense when high-density development is located
in areas accessible by public transport.
There is no question that protected views, such
as that from St Paul's Cathedral, should be safeguarded. It must
be accepted that tall buildings do change the skyline, and will
effect familiar perspectives. However, this is not necessarily
a bad thing.
Are we in danger of repeating the mistakes of
Town planners and property developers alike
have learnt much from the mistakes of the sixties. The importance
of integrating tall buildings into the urban fabric at ground
level, and not creating dead space around them, is now fully recognised.
However, it was not the high-rise nature of the developments which
were the problem, it was the design and management of the buildings.
We have not stopped building shopping centres, because of some
of the mistakes made in the 1960's. In the same way, we should
not rule out tall buildings per se. The mistakes of the 60's lie
in poor quality design and construction materials, hurried construction
and unsuitable usageit is this which we must avoid.
Should the decision-makers be more accountable?
The current planning process is lengthy and
subject to public inquiries and appeals, which delay developments
enormously. Ultimately, many innovative and exciting projects
are rendered unviable due to the costs of enormous delays. For
decision-makers to be accountable, they have to take decisions.
In London, both the Mayor and the Secretary
of State have powers over planning decisions. In London at least,
there should be only the one power, and, given the responsibilities
which have already been conveyed on him, that should be the Mayor.
His policy will be subject to public examination following publication
of the London plan.
Should the government have a particular policy
in relation to tall buildings?
As noted above, policy in London should be for
the Mayor to determine. If the government were to set down guidelines,
they should be about high quality of design, construction materials
and sustainable usage, and this role is carried out by CABE already.
Dictating maximum height, for example, is a very narrow approach.
Well designed tall buildings can respond to
the demands of businesses and residents, whilst enhancing the
urban environment. Mistakes of the past should not be allowed
to prevent the development of the future. Tall buildings can be
stunning landmarks, demonstrating energy and dynamism, and can
contribute space to the public realm. Diversity and choice is
central to the UK's and London's appeal, and tall buildings form
an integral part of a modern city.