Examination of Witnesses (Questions 230-249)|
TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2002
230. What about the final recourse, though,
which is the powers of the Secretary of State to call in applications?
Do you both approve of that procedure continuing?
(Mr Le Lay) Yes.
(Mr Tugnutt) It is absolutely essential that you have
somebody who is the ultimate goalkeeper, as it were.
231. Is your argument that they do not get in
early enough? Is your argument that that is too late a decision-making
process, and that the general public have not had an input at
any point where they could influence the final decision?
(Mr Tugnutt) No. Clearly there are consultation procedures
on planning applications and so the public have an opportunity
to be involved and to give evidence at a inquiry if the application
is refused, or they have the ability to petition the Secretary
of State to call in the application.
232. Is your argument that, at the moment, there
is no democratic legitimacy regarding tall buildingsie,
Londoners have not been given the opportunity to say "Do
you want tall buildings or not?", and, secondly, "Do
you want them located here or not?". Is that your central
(Mr Tugnutt) Not really because, at the moment, the
decision that the LPAC gives guidance is still in placeit
has not been replaced by the Mayor's planbut when that
is finally adopted it will mean that local authority plans, the
borough plans in London, will have to be in general conformity
with that, so that is a problem that is some way down the line.
(Mr Le Lay) One of the reasons for bringing in a unified
authority for London was to overcome nimbyism, to overcome the
system where you had 32 independent boroughs all making up their
minds about things like tall buildings and all sorts of other
policies: that there should be an overview for the whole of London
and it does seem as though we are in danger of that overview being
in the hands of one man.
233. Is that not the whole idea of having an
(Mr Le Lay) Possibly, yes, but
Sir Paul Beresford: What you are advocating
will bring what it sounds as though you want which is stagnation,
because if you put a planning application in you have the local
authority, then the GLA, then the Mayor, then the Government Office
for London and the Secretary of State, and nothing will happen.
It will all go to Frankfurt.
234. There are worse things that can happen!
(Mr Le Lay) I think what we are more concerned about
is the formulation of strategic policy, really.
235. On that subject, you are fairly critical,
both of you, of the Commission for Architecture and the Built
Environment, CABE. Why?
(Mr Tugnutt) Because I feel that they are not accountable.
They have obviously been appointed by the Secretary of State and
I think it is a matter of concern that the present Chairman of
CABE is somebody who has been active in commercial property development
in London for some time and continues to be active.
236. Is not that really a question of having
someone who knows something about the subject in charge?
(Mr Tugnutt) Certainly they should have access to
the commercial realities, absolutelythere is no issue with
thatbut whether or not the Chairman of the body should
be somebody who is actively engaged in property development in
London is another matter. Equally the Mayor's special adviser,
Lord Rogers, is somebody who is also involved in a large number
of developments in London, and Assembly members have already expressed
their reservations about potential for conflict of interest.
Sir Paul Beresford
237. But he would be all right if he was the
Prince of Wales' adviser on villages, would he, in your opinion?
(Mr Tugnutt) It is a question of whether or not they
are actively involved in commercial activity.
238. Would it help if CABE met in public?
(Mr Tugnutt) I think it certainly would and the same
would go for English Heritage. I believe that there is a weakness
there because, for instance, at the Heron inquiry there was a
long discussion about whether or not the Commission of English
Heritage took a vote on the Heron application.
239. Did they?
(Mr Tugnutt) I think you ought to ask them.
240. I like to know the answers before I ask
(Mr Tugnutt) Very often in committees, Chairman, as
you will know, the chairman sums up the discussion and then dares
anybody to disagree with him.
241. Usually chairmen can work out whether they
have had a vote or not.
(Mr Tugnutt) Or they get the spirit of the meeting
but, to be serious about it, at lots of meetings there is not
a formal vote but quite clearly a view that emerges and is summarised
by the Chairman.
242. The Chelsea Society is very worried about
these buildings along the River Thames, but the river has changed
in character, has it not? It used to be very interesting because
of the level of river traffic; but most of that has disappeared.
Would it not be nice to have some tall buildings reflected into
(Mr Le Lay) Not really, because it seems to me crucial
that natural features such as parks and commons and rivers which
are within our cities should not have their scale diminished.
If you line the river with tall buildings it is going to appear
like a corridor, and one of the great things about the Thames
as opposed to the Seine, for example, is its width and the fact
that it is tidal; it is a natural feature in the heart of the
city. That was acknowledged by the old GLC and when the GLC had
policies for tall buildings they said "No tall buildings
near the river, none near Hyde Park or Clapham Common or Battersea
Park or all the open spaces of London", so that their scale
should remain the natural scale rather than be dominated by manmade
Sir Paul Beresford
243. Has Chelsea Society's position on anything
changed since 1920? Perhaps you could write to me on that rather
than answer now.
(Mr Le Lay) I have been looking back at what we were
saying in 1920 and it is amazing how far-sighted we were!
Sir Paul Beresford: I look forward to being
244. Does it really matter whether we have ground
scrapers or sky scrapers? Is the important thing not the quality
of the architecture in either of them?
(Mr Le Lay) You were asking about CABE and English
Heritage. One of the real problems is that these organisations
are dominated by distinguished eminent architects who happen to
be also practising. Quality of architecture is not the only thing.
If you have a tall building it does not matter what the quality
is because what you are objecting to is the bulk of it, and it
does seem to me that organisations like CABE and English Heritage
need a good influx of what I would call ordinary people who are
well informed. For example, you have a memorandum from the London
Forum of Civic and Amenity Societies. They represent something
like 100 different amenity societies so why are they not represented
on organisations like that?
245. So what you are really saying to us is
it does not matter how you design a skyscraper or however well
it is designed, it is still a blot on the landscape?
(Mr Le Lay) Quite.
246. You are going to defend them in the right
place, is that it?
(Mr Tugnutt) No. What I wanted to say was that there
was an appeal decision in the city in the 1980s concerning a tower
designed by Mies van der Roehe who was generally regarded as one
of the pre-eminent architects of the last century and, in turning
down that application, the then Secretary of State said that however
fine a new building was there should be a proper concern for the
surroundings, and good architecture was not only a matter of good
design but also a matter of respecting the context. Part of the
definition, therefore, of a good building, I believe, is how it
responds to its site, and that is something that has always been
right. You should not say, "In abstract I am a marvellous
piece of design; therefore I can automatically be approved".
If you are going to be tall you have to be very good indeed, but
first you have to make a decision as to whether or not you should
have a tall building.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very
much for your evidence.
Examination of Witnesses
LIVINGSTONE, Mayor of London,
and MR GILES
DOLPHIN, Planning Decisions Manager,
247. Can I welcome you to the third session
this morning of our inquiry into tall buildings and ask you to
identify yourselves, please?
(Mr Livingstone) I am Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of
(Mr Dolphin) I am Giles Dolphin, Ken's
head of planning decisions.
248. Do either of you want to say anything by
way of introduction?
(Mr Livingstone) Could I just say that the context
is important? It led me when I was campaigning for the election
to make clear that, if elected, I would change the policy on density
in London and the policy on height. The main influence on my thinking
had been the present government's work, particularly under Lord
Rogers, and I was particularly influenced by particular comments
made by the Deputy Prime Minister when he reminded us that the
density of a lot of the great Georgian terraces is much higher
than anything we build today. I have the policy I have because
London's population has risen from 6.8 million in the mid-1980s
to 7.4 today; our estimates are that it will reach 8.1 million
to 8.4 within 15 years, and in the last 25 years we have lost
600,000 jobs in manufacturing and gained 600,000 in business services.
All the projections suggest we should expect another 500,000 jobs
in business services over the next 15 years: that means you need
to put in the transport infrastructure because, whether we like
it or not, they concentrate in the city centre and a lot of the
demand for the firms that wish to come here are for high buildings,
a sort of landmark statement as they consolidateoftentheir
international headquarters operation in one city. It is a balance.
We are talking about 15-20 tall buildings of the 40 storey plus
over the next 15 years, and that needs to be set against some
of the alarmist comments that we have seen about how London is
going to become Manhattan. It is not. We are talking about a cluster
in the north east section of the city; some further development
at Canary Wharf; Stratford; hopefully at Croydon; and perhaps
individual tall buildings over major rail termini such as London
Bridge. That puts it more in context. We are still going to be
recognisably London but hopefully with some graceful architectural
award-winning designs that people will want to work in, which
will add to our skyline.
249. In the interim guidance that you have issued,
you give four reasons for wanting tall buildings in London. One
of these is maintaining a supply of top quality floor space. Is
that the major reason you have for wanting more tall buildings?
(Mr Livingstone) It is driven by market forces, yes.
There is a lot of firms who want something of the order of a million
square feet and, as I am sure the City Corporation have told you,
there is a limited amount of places in London where you can still
do that in ground-hugging buildings, so it recognised those market
forces. As I said, we are expecting half a million new business
jobs. What is particularly striking has been the concentration
of those around Liverpool Street station which fortunately is
outside the protected sight lines of St Paul's and Westminster,
not that you would have known that listening to some of the comments
at the Heron inquiry.