Examination of Witnesses (Questions 120-139)|
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002
120. But, speaking as a professional planner,
if a few rogue planning decisions got through for tall buildings,
would you prefer them to be pepperpotted or in clusters?
(Mr Powell) I think that depends upon which part of
London you are talking about. Clearly, if one is looking at the
north-east corner of the City Corporation for London then you
have a concentration where clustering is appropriate, Docklands
is a cluster location, and I think Croydon was mentioned earlier
as a cluster location. Clustering in areas such as Richmond or
Westminster, or areas which do not, in fact, have that type of
more modernistic urban fabric, would be inappropriate. So, for
us, in Westminster, which is not what we would advocate for everybody
else in London, we are more likely to see an isolated form of
development as opposed to a cluster form of development.
121. What about Bath? I think, in your memorandum,
obviously, you did not want either; but, again, if you have to
accept them, what would be appropriate in Bath's case?
(Ms Wilkinson) If we are talking about 20 storeys
plus, I would have thought the City infrastructure probably could
handle only one of those.
122. If you were more modest in Bath, if it
were six to ten storeys, what would you do with them, would you
put them in a cluster or dot them around the City?
(Ms Wilkinson) I think they would have to be in a
group, as distinct from a cluster; and then I think it is very
much down to, going back to the point made previously, the precise
characteristics of the site that we are dealing with. And this
goes back to a proper contextual analysis, at day one, by the
design team, which I have also set down in my submission to you;
the design team should include a number of professionals, looking
at all aspects of the way the group relate to their immediate
neighbours, their medium-distance neighbours and from further
afield. And I think they will be grouped by the very nature and
availability of land in Bath, the only two developments sites
left in the City will force them into a group; it is then a question
of how that is actually elevated, in design terms. And currently
we are discussing a very large riverside development site with
the very aim in mind, to look at the appropriate grouping of buildings.
123. With the appropriate grouping, but how
(Ms Wilkinson) At the moment, the proposal is for
nothing higher than eight storeys; that is still subject to debate,
and it is over a large site, and we are looking at views and vistas,
in a smaller way but in exactly the same way as the urban conurbations.
124. Mr Powell, can I move you on to transport,
because a number of the submissions have dwelt on transport factors,
but I do not think there is much in your memorandum about transport.
So the question I would like to ask you is, what has been your
experience of large-scale developments vis-a"-vis
public transport capacity?
(Mr Powell) Public transport is absolutely essential
to any significant increase in density, as far as commercial or
residential development in the urban context, and, for us, in
Westminster, we have extensive first-hand experience. At Paddington,
where we have three million square feet of offices coming out
of the ground, that is very closely linked to redevelopment of
Paddington Station and its relationship with the rest of the Thames
Valley; we are moving on to looking at the development opportunities
for the Victoria Station area. And, similarly, the experience
in both of those cases is that creating an integrated transport
exchange, which, notwithstanding the apparent consolidation of
transport thinking under TfL, still has not been delivered, buses
do not talk to the Underground, which does not talk to the railways,
in a collegiate way, so the role of the local authority, in terms
of playing matchmaker, becomes absolutely crucial in that, has
meant that often we end up spending more time working with co-ordinating
the transport solutions to major office development opportunities
than actually determining the office development application itself.
So they are indivisible, inextricably linked.
125. So you are saying, in your view, that high-density,
new office concentrations, and residential, too, should be focused
on and around transport interchanges?
(Mr Powell) In the urban fabric, yes, we believe that
is the case.
126. What about Oxford Circus, with the Underground
exchange; is there scope there?
(Mr Powell) No, because the Oxford Circus area, which,
of course, is heavily retail at the moment, we would not see as
a high buildings location, in fact, it does not lend itself to
that, for a variety of reasons.
(Ms MacQueen) If I could just add, it takes you back
to the context issue. It is a risky venture to say that just because
there is a transport interchange that means there should be a
tall building, if you take out the context aspect of the argument.
Because, clearly, almost every Underground station, quite a few
in Westminster have got cross points there, Bond Street would
be another, Marble Arch would be another, and these would not
be locations for tall buildings because most of them are in conservation
areas surrounded by listed buildings, and there is a scale issue
127. But, presumably, there is also an issue
about how many people you can squeeze through a tube station,
in that sort of coming to work two hours and going home two hours,
is there not?
(Ms MacQueen) Absolutely; that is part of the benefit
of the Paddington scheme, that part of the planning obligation,
the gains that are being wrought from that, specifically are being
fed into transport improvements, which will arrive before the
bulk of the commuters arrive.
128. And you are confident that enough people
can be squeezed through the tube at Paddington for redevelopment?
(Mr Powell) We certainly would not describe enhanced
integrated transport as squeezing travellers; in fact, that is
exactly what we would not want to do.
129. It feels a bit like being squeezed, does
(Mr Powell) It may well do, at the moment, and that
is why we are planning to produce an integrated policy which avoids
squeezing for the future.
130. Very quickly; how far should tall buildings
make a contribution to residential accommodation? If we are actually
going to have a much better, joined-up, urban environment, is
it not better for a lot of people to walk to work? Now, given
the amount of office accommodation there is in Westminster, is
there not an argument for some tall or some medium-size buildings
for residential accommodation in Westminster?
(Mr Powell) Our experience is that the density argument
behind tall buildings does not, in fact, certainly in the Westminster
case, bear scrutiny; that, with low-rise, dense development, we
are able to achieve the same densities that high-rise may achieve,
given the specific design considerations that you have. So, whilst,
yes, we support 100 per cent the increase in repopulation, the
urban renaissance concept of increasing residential population,
and, as we said in our evidence, we have been the most successful
London borough in doing that, and, depending upon how you measure
it, we are certainly in the top two, if not the leader, in terms
of affordable housing for central London, but that is not dependent
upon tall buildings, we have done it over the last decade and
we have done it without tall buildings.
131. Could I just ask something on that. You
obviously heard the evidence earlier from the City of London;
so you have no experiences in Westminster of that conflict that
we were being told about by Judith Mayhew, of 24-hour working
and everyone wanting to dig up the streets and repair the buildings
late at night?
(Mr Powell) I think we are dealing with a different
urban fabric, clearly; there is a limited area within the square
mile which Judith Mayhew was referring to. We have extensive experience
of the problems of the 24-hour city, particularly with regard
to the interface between residential and entertainment industry,
for the West End; and so there are tremendous tensions that do
need to be resolved, but they can be resolved through design,
and high-rise is not a panacea to solve those problems.
132. If there is so much demand for new office
accommodation within Westminster, why has it taken so long to
get rid of Marsham towers?
(Mr Powell) I think you will have to ask your colleagues
in Government; that is a Government development. But I am reminded
of the old Samuel Pepys quote, when he was working at Deptford,
in the victualling yards, `There are none that pay so much for
their ships as the King;' it always takes Government much longer
to do things.
Mrs Dunwoody: Mind you, he was one of the contributory
133. Should it be easier to knock down tall
(Mr Powell) Certainly, at Marsham Street, we have
consented the demolition, and, certainly, as far as possible,
we have given `God speed' to having that fall down; interestingly
enough, with a greater density in the redevelopment than the towers
that will disappear.
134. And, the redevelopment, will that be a
(Mr Powell) It will not be a tall building, in fact,
it is a lower building with a greater density on the site.
135. A groundscraper?
(Mr Powell) Yes, a groundscraper.
136. Now what about this question of protecting
views? Westminster have got two protected views, is it? Is it
a good idea to have, in a development plan, protected views?
(Mr Powell) We believe protected views are a good
idea for London. If one reflects back on the planning history
of the original introduction of the ten primary protected views
in London, of course, at that time, we were anticipating the expansion
of protected views and that this would be part of a rolling programme
and moving forward, and that, indeed, there will be compensation
137. That is really what I am trying to find
out; were they something that was a lot more trouble than they
(Mr Powell) We believe that they have not been more
trouble than they are worth; certainly, our experience, and I
think that we have
138. But you have not got an expansion of them?
(Mr Powell) That is true. We have demonstrated, through
the development successes of the last decade, that you can work
within the constraints of the protected views, and that those
protected views do safeguard the quality of heritage and enrich
the fabric. And so, therefore, by having the protected lines,
actually it strengthens the commercial demand for coming to those
139. Should Bath have protected views?
(Ms Wilkinson) Bath has got protected views; it is
inherent in the way we approach all our planning applications,
from great and small, and it is a contextually-based methodology.
Any large development requires an environmental impact analysis,
that is under the regulations.
2 Westminster also has Metropolitan and local views
which the UDP policies set out to protect. Such views are and
continue to be defined in our Conservation Are Audits. Back