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Mayor Ken Livingstone has told a commons select committee that London risks losing its position as the predominant ...
Mayor Ken Livingstone has told a commons select committee that London risks losing its position as the predominant financial centre in Europe without more tall buildings.

The mayor told MPs that top-class design, rather than height, should be the key criteria by which planning applications are judged. Although the mayor does not envisage more than 10-15 landmark or cluster buildings being built in as many years, tall buildings can provide a positive benefit to London's economic and aesthetic growth. There needs to be sufficient investment however, in schemes such as Crossrail, to ensure suitable transport capacity for the areas proposed for new developments.

The mayor said:

'Well-designed tall buildings can add to London's skyline and become new landmarks for the capital. Architectural quality is the key. Office space is at a premium in the City and as a result costs are soaring. If this continues there is a real danger that London will lose business to other European cities. The real threat to London's skyline would be the failure to plan and link developments to a new public transport infrastructure, which is something my London Plan will address.'

The following points were also specified:

Location: The location of tall buildings must preserve or enhance local qualities of an area - by protecting existing local character and the settings of historic assets.

Visually enhancing London: The mayor believes that tall buildings can visually enhance the capital. They can be eye-catching from beyond their immediate surroundings, providing new landmarks that enhance the local area and help stimulate regeneration. As a consequence, they should be of exceptional design quality and carefully planned to make sure they have the right impact.

Housing: The ability to accommodate future population and employment growth is key. It is important to maximise development opportunity and available land resources in locations that are or will be well served by public transport. Tall buildings are not the only, or in all circumstances the most appropriate way of providing homes; but tall residential buildings have a role in the housing market, in particular in providing high-cost, non-family homes in accessible places.

Tall buildings of the 1960's vs tall buildings of the future: There are differences between tall buildings of the 1960's and today in terms of purpose and funding. The importance of urban design and the relationship between buildings and spaces between them is also vital in reducing crime, taking forward sustainable construction and design techniques, making sure space is used and 'owned', making vibrant public places and contributing to the local community.

Views and skyline: Over the last 20 years, existing strategic views have influenced where tall buildings have been built across London. The mayor's London Plan will provide a strategic overview for London's skyline based on transport and density capacities. It is also proposed that all existing and potential views which could be strategically important are reviewed to ensure those that are of real value are appropriately protected.

The mayor's London Plan will promote a co-ordinated approach to development and planning tall buildings across the capital through the 33 borough's unitary development plans.


Also addressing the committee were Bristol City Council and Birmingham City Council.

The mayor has a clear remit to develop strategic tall buildings and view policies for London and in October 2001 published the Interim Strategic Planning Guidance on Tall Buildings, Strategic Views and the Skyline in London.

The mayor's London Plan is due out later this year for public consultation.

More information on the select committee's inquiry into tall buildings can be found here.

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