Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Annex D



  Mr. Gareth R. Thomas: To ask the Secretary of State for the Environment, Transport and the Regions if he will make a statement on the London Planning Advisory Committee's advice on high buildings and strategic views in London. [98359]

  Mr. Raynsford: The London Planning Advisory Committee's strategic planning advice on high buildings and strategic views in London was submitted to the Government earlier this year. It follows up the proposal in Strategic Guidance for London Planning Authorities (RPG3, 1996), to review policy in this area, and builds upon research jointly commissioned by LPAC, the Government Office for London, English Heritage, the City of London and others.

  The Government welcome this advice, which will provide an important input to the development of the Mayor for London's Spatial Development Strategy, under the proposed new arrangements for strategic planning in the capital. The Government do not propose to issue supplementary planning guidance in the meantime, but will take account of the advice in exercising their planning responsibilities in the capital. Planning authorities in London should also take account of the advice in the interim in preparing or reviewing their Unitary Development Plans and in the exercise of their development control functions.

  The advice provides a useful assessment of the role, value and impact of high buildings in London. It also provides helpful and detailed policy advice on the assessment of high buildings, which should help to ensure that future decisions on such proposals are better informed.

  The Government note in particular the findings that:

    —  there is some demand for new high buildings, both for office and residential accommodation;

    —  there is at present, however, no economic imperative in terms of unmet demand or evidence that the competitive position of London is under threat through lack of new high buildings, though this situation needs to be kept under review;

    —  the existing character of London is highly valued;

    —  there is no need or desire for a radical change in the city's skyline in order to sustain or enhance London's image and status as a world city;

    —  research did not reveal widespread general opposition to new high buildings. However, their location, height and appearance need to be carefully considered; individual high buildings can have a significant negative effect on the urban environment if poorly designed or located.

  The Government therefore broadly endorse the principles set out in LPAC's advice, and consider in particular that local planning authorities in London should:

    —  consult the Mayor, adjacent authorities and others on all applications for new buildings above the thresholds set out in the advice. (These thresholds will be replicated in the Order defining applications of potential strategic importance on which the Mayor is to be consulted*);

    —  identify in their unitary development plans (UDPs) any areas or locations that are considered particularly suitable for high buildings, taking account of the local context (including clustering of high buildings), potential impacts on particularly sensitive areas or views, and sustainable development objectives such as the need to ensure high levels of public transport accessibility;

    —  indicate in UDPs the criteria against which they will assess any proposals for high buildings in these areas, consistent with those in the advice;

    —  take account of the criteria set out in the advice when assessing proposals for new high buildings, including the potential impact on particularly sensitive areas and views, and in particular require that:

      —they contribute positively to a point of civic or visual significance (including a cluster);

      —they are of outstanding architectural quality;

      —applications are accompanied by a design statement and analysis of the urban design context.

  The Government note LPAC's advice that the existing arrangements for protecting designated views across the capital are generally considered to have operated successfully. It therefore reaffirms the existing guidance to local planning authorities to protect and enhance these views, and agrees that boroughs should also adopt policies to identify and protect important local views, prospects and panoramas. The Government intend to transfer responsibility for protecting strategic views to the Mayor under the new planning arrangements to apply in the capital. They do not for the present intend to designate any additional views, and do not believe that a convincing case has been made for the two additional views suggested for consideration in the advice.

  The Government believe that LPAC's advice represents a balanced and pragmatic approach to the issue of high buildings in the capital which should help to ensure that London's needs can be met without compromising its unique character and urban quality. In particular, pending any policies that the Mayor may wish to develop in his or her Spatial Development Strategy, it should assist planning authorities and developers alike in ensuring that any new high buildings are directed to the most appropriate locations and are of the highest possible design quality.

  * Development which comprises or includes the erection of a building in respect of which one or more of the following conditions is met—

    (a)  the building is more than 25 metres high and is adjacent to the River Thames,

    (b)  the building is more than 75 metres high and in the City of London,

    (c)  the building is more than 30 metres high and outside the City of London.

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