Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda

Memorandum by The British Land Company plc (TAB 33)

  British Land is the third largest property company in the United Kingdom with a portfolio of some £9.2 billion and a development programme of approximately £1.5 billion. The Company's portfolio comprises some 44 per cent retail and 45 per cent office properties, including significant investment in the City of London, of which the Broadgate Estate at Liverpool Street Station is the best-known example. The Company's development programme is focused on City offices, with significant elements of retail and business park development elsewhere in the UK and Ireland.

  British Land is committed to providing high quality and efficient office floor space to meet the increasing demands of major City tenants, most of whom now operate on a global basis and expect international standards of quality. The Company believes in design excellence and employs architects and engineers of international repute to provide the buildings which are needed in high profile locations in the City.

  The City of London is highly accessible by public transport, is a globally renowned location for major financial and other institutions to do business and, at locations such as Broadgate, can provide an attractive multi-use environment for work and leisure. Space is however limited in the City and it is in this context that the development of tall buildings provides the opportunity for higher densities around public transport nodes, at the same time as providing high quality public spaces. There are also opportunities to signal major regeneration projects with well-designed tall buildings which are visible from a distance and can provide high specification space for major companies to move into locations which might otherwise be ignored.

  It has been our experience that some major multinational tenants require substantial landmark buildings so as to achieve the economic and corporate benefits of being able to co-locate business units. A number of these tenants have been frustrated by the inability of the City of London office market to provide sufficient modern floor space of this type, to the extent that they have looked away from the City to other locations to meet their requirements.

  Constraints such as conservation areas, listed buildings, view corridors etc inevitably limit where tall buildings can be located. As part of its UDP Review the City Corporation has therefore identified locations which are relatively unconstrained, where clusters can be developed, either around existing high buildings or in new locations. Detailed analysis elsewhere in London and in other major cities can identify locations for clusters of tall buildings and opportunities for single landmark buildings where appropriate. The City of London is however a special case because of its global role, its high density, intensive trading and support activities, and its public transport accessibility.

  A modernised planning system can provide the mechanism for assessing the development of tall buildings. Many lessons have been learnt from past mistakes, including the need to mitigate the windy environments, which can be created at the base, and the importance of the relationship between tall buildings and streets and squares.

  The need for local planning authorities to adopt a properly considered planning policy approach to tall buildings and an identification of the factors to be taken into account could be more explicitly stated in Government policy as, for instance, Planning Policy Guidance. This would ensure that local planning authorities do not unnecessarily constrain development but do provide the guidance which is needed in order to produce the highest quality development and associated public realm, and provide a level of certainty to the property industry and prospective tenants.

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Prepared 22 January 2002