Examination of Witnesses (Questions 150-169)|
TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2002
150. What about Birmingham?
(Mr Brown) It is fairly similar. We have been going
through quite a renaissance of bringing people back to live in
our city centre. There is an awful lot of new housing development
going on which has been encouraged by the success of the breaking
down or our Ring Road and expanding our city centre. We already
have quite a number of very tall buildings with people living
in them very close to the city centre, some of which are very
successful, and they do not actually at the moment include very
significant amounts of parking and therefore do not generate traffic
particularly. We have new housing developments right at the core
of the city which have no parking provision whatsoever and they
are very popular with people working right in the city centre.
Again, the business of discouraging car use by limiting parking
provision and by locating housing close to public transport nodes
and well supplied routes is part of our general policy anyway
and the same would apply with tall housing blocks if they were
proposed. We have at the moment a new housing block going through
the planning process which will be a fairly tall building with
fairly limited parking arrangements. It is located very handily
to the main station in New Street.
Sir Paul Beresford
151. How tall? You said anything from seven
to 15 storeys.
(Mr Brown) Yes. The Holloway Circus Tower: it is proposed
at the moment at 192 metres. To answer your question about the
Arena Central Tower, that is 232 metres.
152. Which is how many storeys?
(Mr Brown) That bit I do not have written down here!
One of the things that we have to deal with in Birmingham is that
we have a height limitation ceiling which is imposed by the West
Midlands Airport. Therefore, in some respects, it is easier to
take the height in metres because one has to relate to that.
153. Do you see tall residential blocks in the
city central area as a good thing in revitalising the cities as
(Mr Brown) The problem with residential use, if you
can call it a problem, is that I guess it is aimed at a certain
sort of market.
154. What sort of market?
(Mr Brown) It is not really family housing so much
as for younger or professional or singles or couples, that sort
of thing, and for older people who are through the childhood age.
We actually have a number of tall buildings which are very popular
on that basis. It is really a question of how extensive the demand
will actually be. There is plenty of provision on the way at the
moment in other sorts of less tall buildings. Certainly there
is a demand that is met by these tall buildings. They are popular.
People living in them now like them. I think that they are a specific
part of the community rather than being popular with everybody.
155. Can I ask Bristol, what is your view of
(Mr Brook) That is a big question! We have, over a
number of years, been very supportive of English Heritage because,
in the 1970s and 1980s, they put a lot of money into restoring
Bristol's historic buildings. Bristol had a very bad record in
the early 1970s for demolishing vast swathes of the city and one
of the reasons that I joined the city was to try and reverse that
and actually look at the focus of the quality of the city and
what there was there which people valued. We have been working
with the community with English Heritage for a long time restoring
significant buildings in the city centre, and that is a very popular
policy and a policy which our members continue to support. We
are very supportive of their approach on most occasions. I have
to say that the particular issue of tall buildings is an area
where there are bound to be tensions between us and English Heritage
in the same way that there are tensions between CABE and English
Heritage. We are looking at, for example, in the city centre,
the possible replacement of the big tower: we have two big towers
but the Bristol and West tower which is now redundant, a 1960s
tower. They are of the view that it spoils certain views of Queen
Square, our big Georgian square, whereas CABE are of the view
that actually to have a quality building is something which is
acceptable. So the authority will have to decide between the two
what the right solution will be. There is a planning application
under consideration now. There are tensions there. I am sure that
we will work with English Heritage. We do not see that there should
be a zero sum approach in the city centre. We think there is a
role for tall buildings in historic cities, but we have to be
very careful about where they go and how they should be analysed.
One of the things that we do welcome is the CABE/English Heritage
draft report on tall buildings and the analysis there. Our concerns
are as to whether that will be actually finalised or whether there
will be government advice on that because we see that as a way
forward between the obvious tensions of the architectural side
of the analysis and the historic building side of the analysis.
156. Does that mean you think that is a good
report that should be followed?
(Mr Brook) Yes, we do think that the principles CABE
lay down for analysis and assessment, which is very important
so that there is a general platform about which tall buildings
are analysed throughout the country, is an excellent list and
that it should be adopted, whatever way Government wishes to adopt
157. Do you have a different view on that or
are you happy with the CABE document?
(Mr Brown) I think we really are happy with the CABE
document; it ties up very closely with our own views about the
sort of things you should be looking at when you are considering
a tall building and, as I think I said, we are producing our own
new tall buildings policy updating the one that is in our current
Birmingham Urban Design Study and it will have pretty much parallel
requirements in it. So, yes, we are happy.
158. In your memorandum, you give the impression
that regeneration of the City of Bristol historically is actually
more important than tall buildings. Would that be a fair summary?
(Mr Brook) Yes, simplistically. I think what we would
say is that the city is interested in attracting investment, like
all good cities are. We are in a boom period, and I think I put
that in my evidence. We have had £1 billion invested over
the last two years and we expect another £2 billion over
the next two years coming. So there is a great deal of discussion
about very large scale developments. Some of that development
is up into the seven, eight, nine storeys within the historic
context. So we are looking at the impact of that sort of development
as we consider that to be in some cases a serious change in terms
of the historic character of the areas, especially around the
waterfront and the castle. We are concerned about high density
and we are concerned that some parts of the development industry
have interpreted "high" as meaning going much higher
than the traditional fabric and that is a concern to us. In terms
of tall buildings, we feel that those are very much a question
of mood in Bristol. We had a run of those in the 1960s and 1970s.
We do now have a number of tall buildings on the stocks and there
was one in the newspaper last week for 43 storeys right in the
centre of Bristol next to Temple Meads Railway Station. We will
have to be very much more attuned to the way in which we assess
those forms of buildings.
159. How can you get attuned to 43 storeys?
Forgive me if I am missing something.
(Mr Brook) No, you are not missing it. When I said
"attuned", it was shorthand for the way in which we
will actually analyse/assess those forms of buildings.
160. Is there anything else at 43 storeys around
(Mr Brook) No but, in terms of the assessment of those
sorts of buildings, we are going to have to look very carefully
now at the impact, but it will be based on the assessment of the
historic background; it will be based on advice from English Heritage
on the impact on heritage sites and Temple Meads. So we are interested
in strengthening some of the planning concepts such as the impacts
161. What you are tactfully telling us is that
you do not want to.
(Mr Brook) What we are tactfully telling you is that
we certainly do not want it there when we have been trying to
open up the view from the city centre to the railway station which
was always a problem of Brunel's original location and we need
those links between the railway station and the city centre. What
we do not want is for those links to be fractured even further
by a large building sitting right across the middle of those access
Sir Paul Beresford
162. Your comments about commuters and so forth
would mean that it would be a logical place for such a building.
(Mr Brook) That is absolutely right. We are working
on the other side of Temple Meads which is less visible on a scheme
which is a big mixed-use scheme which will have three tall buildings
by Bristol standards, up to 14 storeys, but they are behind the
railway station and they will not be obtrusive on the historic
scene. It is very much a question of analysing each site in context.
163. Fourteen and 45 is distinctly different.
Where you have 14, would you extend to 45 on that particular site?
(Mr Brook) No. The Bristol analysis: we asked developers
to provide a 360 degree analysis of the impact of their buildings
on views from all parts of the city in order that we can see through
computer analysis what the impacts of high buildings are. In the
case of Temple Meads, we have looked at the impacts of the buildings
to the north of that and the developer has adjusted those buildings
in order that they will not be seen from the historic approach
to the railway station or from the approach from Victoria Street.
In the case of a 43 storey buildingand we have not done
the analysis because it is not a formal applicationwe suspect
that will have a significant impact on pretty well every much
loved part of the heritage, so there will be a much stronger reason
for refusal. Our concern really is, will that be backed up by
the Inspectorate and are the Planning Acts sufficiently tough
to give enough weight to the views and impacts of these buildings
because traditionally PPG1 does not express those forms of reasons
for refusal very strongly?
164. I thought that earlier in your evidence
you were saying that you see a role for tall buildings, that they
are striking and that they can actually add to the scenery regardless
of what English Heritage may think.
(Mr Brook) We think that, in certain areas of the
165. A striking building on the horizon is of
benefit even if it is in (Mr Brook) I think we would
have to carry the community with us. I am planning as very much
a community based activity. I think if you said that, most Bristonians
would be quite worried about that statement. They live in a city
which is four, five, six storeys high from which they can see
the surrounding hills and that is very much a tradition of Bristol.
166. So you would like it somewhere near like
(Mr Brook) No. As I say, there are areas in the city
to the east which we are looking at for regeneration where we
think buildings of about 10 to 14 storeys may be applicable.
Sir Paul Beresford
167. And you cannot see the hills.
(Mr Brook) Whether they impact on the skyline. I do
not know how well you know Bristol, sir. My apologies if I am
telling you something that you know already.
168. I know your regeneration area fairly well.
(Mr Brook) The views over to Clifton of the Terraces
and the sweeping views along the north-side and the views south
which is to the Dundry Hills to the south side of the city, those
are the things which people value very highly and they will be
very careful, or our members will be, when they look at these
sort of schemes to assess that form of impact.
169. May I just ask about the powers you have
to put this vision area in place. You were speaking about whether
the Planning Inspectorate would back you if you make a decision.
Do you think that there should be greater guidance from government
on the issue of tall buildings and, if so, what should it be,
and should it give you stronger statutory powers to actually reject
tall buildings where you think they are inappropriate?
(Mr Brook) I think the possibility of the review of
the planning process and the fact that minsters are stating that
PPG1 will be rewritten offers an opportunity to revisit some of
these issues. I certainly think that, under the present circumstances,
the accent on long-term and short-term views are a very thorny
issue in terms of planning law and it is something which we have
ignored in the past and, if we are going to move forward with
saying, "What is the degree of harm which is acceptable in
a view?" or "What is the degree of harm that is not
acceptable in a view?", then I think some form of central
government advice and guidance in the generality of an approach
would be appropriate. I think in terms of the analysisand
I am sure Birmingham agreesthat really is a matter for
local authorities to have done their homework in terms of assessing
what are the actual very valuable and sensitive parts of their
areas and which are the areas which are actually more flexible
and where you could actually envisage tall buildings occurring.
I do think there is a need for some form of government advice
and I say that not to disparage2.
1 1 They could give identity to regeneration areas
where they do not detrimentally affect historic and topographical
context and, of course, subject to community consultation through
the planning process. Back
2 and I say that not to disparage the work done already by CABE
and English Heritage but to add weight to their work through recognised
formal advisory guidance. Back