Examination of Witnesses (Questions 290-309)|
TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2002
290. How many of the people from the boroughs
around work in Canary Wharf?
(Mr Livingstone) Of course they do not and this is
the failure of the past. The task I have set my London Development
Agency is that over this next decadewhat can we do between
the government social exclusion unit and the local boroughs, the
further and higher educationthat core of people in the
inner city who virtually drift in and out of casual work at best
can get training and skills that allow them to work in these new
jobs that are coming. If we can do that we solve a huge social
problem. Twenty years ago, when the Labour GLC was elected, it
was on the basis of reversing the decline in manufacturing. This
is not where I would have started from; it is the world I live
in. My task as Mayor is to get the best benefit I can for Londoners
out of the huge globalisation forces that are sweeping through
the world economy.
291. How tall would a tall building be to provide
a million square feet of office space?
(Mr Livingstone) You can easily get that in about
(Mr Dolphin) Yes. It all depends on the floor plates.
The original Canary Wharf building is about a million square feet,
that sort of order, so you can get it in buildings of that height.
292. So how many storeys?
(Mr Dolphin) I cannot remember how many. It is about
800 feet tall.
293. How far did the Heron inquiry distort your
process for producing guidance?
(Mr Livingstone) We would not have rushed to make
the initial statement if we had not had the Heron inquiry.
294. So you did rush?
(Mr Livingstone) We had to; this was the problem.
There were only ten weeks between the Mayoral election and the
GLA having formal legal existence. Normally a local government
reorganisation organisation has been eleven months or so. A lot
of things had to be rushed and then we found the Heron decision
bearing right down on us so it was one of the first I had to take.
I had no objection to the building; my only comment to the developer
was it seemed to me there could be several more storeys on it.
295. So what is now the status of this interim
guidance? A rushed document and you are hoping to replace it fairly
(Mr Livingstone) Not rushed in the sense that it is
inadequate but we needed to make a statement of what my emerging
strategy is in terms of high buildings, both because of the Heron
inquiry and because, as I say, we have several other tall buildings
coming along which will be up for planning permission before the
spatial development strategy has legal force at the end of next
296. You were talking about democratic accountability.
Am I right in assuming that the London boroughs in their local
plans have to reflect your London Plan?
(Mr Livingstone) Yes. Their strategies will have to
be brought into accord with mine.
297. So potentially could that mean that your
taste for tall buildings will be imposed on reluctant boroughs
like Westminster, who we have taken evidence from?
(Mr Livingstone) It cannot be imposed because I have
no power to grant permission. I can only direct refusal. For example,
the Arsenal stadium is absolutely at the limit, which is 30 ms,
for a building in Islington. Islington's policy is you cannot
build anything over 30 ms anywhere in the borough. The result
has been they have created a football stadium where they have
had to reverse the roof, so instead of it being a dome it is concave.
That means £5 million extra has had to be spent to pump the
rainwater that will fall on to it up and out. That is £5
million that could have been spent in the community, or even been
extra profit for the developer. To remove that blanket restriction,
therefore, will allow some flexibility to Islington in the future
but not force them to accept a building they do not like.
298. No, but will there be pressure that they
will have to get rid of this blanket ruling that they have?
(Mr Livingstone) That would be what I anticipate.
I have to say I do not understand the planning logic that says,
within artificially drawn political boundaries based on the medieval
church boundaries, that is the best way of determining height
in a particular part of London.
299. It is called local accountability, usually.
Can I ask you about an issue that was raised by Judith Mayhew
last week which is that there may be a difference of view between
yourself and the Corporation over the building of tall buildings
in conservation areas?
(Mr Livingstone) I genuinely do not understand the
point she was making. We would be very reluctant to build tall
buildings in conservation areas.
300. She did seem to be expressing some reservation.
(Mr Dolphin) I did not hear what Judith Mayhew said
and I am not aware of her point. On the whole it would be difficult
to put a tall building in a conservation area but I do not think
it would be sensible to have a blanket ban. It may be possible
to have a tall building; one judges it on its merits.
301. You may not grant planning permission,
but there is a way, by forcing a borough to remove its blanket
ban on building over a certain height, that could lead to planning
permission being granted because, if that ban is not in place,
it gets an individual planning application; it then has not got
an overall policy which it can apply; and is it not more likely
that, if the developer chooses to appeal, the planning inspectorate
will grant that planning permission because the borough is operating
on an individual position rather than a coherent policy. Is that
not one way in which you can influence it?
(Mr Livingstone) They would then have to provide a
justification for refusing it on the fact that there was a blanket
ban but this is the point, after a 15 year absence, of having
a unified government for London. We could have each borough with
its own height restriction. Over a period of time, this would
create a most bizarre city where you had buildings drop down or
up several storeys as you cross the street. It is much better
that there was an overall underlying strategy. My broad view is
you should look at each site on its merits. It would be wrong
to have a series of specific height restrictions across London
just as in one particular borough. Some things will be acceptable
on one site, depending on the nature and history of a site and
its social composition, that would be different on another site.
(Mr Dolphin) The London Plan will not just remove
a blanket ban; it will put in its place a series of very sophisticated
and detailed criteria for judging planning applications and proposals.
302. On Victoria, there are different views
about whether or not there should be support for clustering tall
building around Victoria station?
(Mr Livingstone) I have not seen any planning application.
I know only what I pick up on the grapevine. I think what we are
anticipating is a single building.
(Mr Dolphin) We are not sure yet. There is a single
building likely to come forward on Railtrack property. I have
not yet seen proposals for other developments of height.
303. Railtrack are quoted in your evidence in
TAB 55(ii). There is a big piece about Railtrack controllingand
we all know, of course, about this poor incompetent companylarge
sums and large amounts of office space in London.
(Mr Dolphin) Yes, but any planning application for
a tall building would have to be judged in the context of the
impact that that building might have, for instance, on the world
heritage site here.
304. So you are not telling Mrs Russell that
suddenly Victoria Station would spout a very tall building which
would have an impact on the buildings around?
(Mr Dolphin) No. In discussions I have had so far
with Railtrack and their architects I have asked them to test
this to show what the impact might be, so that the Mayor and Westminster
City Council can judge that. We are working very closely with
the City Council on that. There are other redevelopment schemes
in the pipeline in the area, in Victoria Street, for instance,
which are ground-hugging because the site demands that.
305. But you would accept that Victoria Street
and its masterpieces of modern architecture are not necessarily
representative of the areas around Victoria Station. There are
still some very nice streets around Victoria Station.
(Mr Dolphin) Absolutely.
(Mr Livingstone) It is my view that no new building
should impinge on that. It is not an area where I would consider
a 40 storey building would be acceptable. It is a question of
what height will be acceptable and that will be largely influenced
by design. If anybody is worried about suddenly having a 60 storey
building appear above Victoria Station, that will not happen.
It would be a devastating impact on the whole quality and nature
of building in the area and visible for miles around.
306. Would you like to extend your views on
(Mr Livingstone) English Heritage it seemed to me
was once a part of the Greater London Council and I think it was
right that their advice influenced planning decisions. I regretted
that, on the instance of the Heron Tower, they did not come to
me and give me their advice. They ignored the new government of
London and appealed directly to government on the grounds, I thought
rather spurious, that this was a national strategic issue whereas,
in actual fact, we were talking about a slight change in the view
from Waterloo and a slight change from the terrace at Somerset
House once you hung of the end of it and once they chopped down
the trees already blocking the view, and I think there is a real
problem. If you create an organisation whose sole job is to list
things they will carry on until they list everything. If you wait
long enough, buildings they objected to, a generation on, they
will come back and list. Also, if you have three teams operating
inside English Heritage for London you will get a different decision
depending on which team you go to, so I would be quite happy to
307. You would like to get rid of these protected
(Mr Livingstone) Giles has corrected me: English Heritage
did give me my advice. They then went to the government when they
did not like the fact I rejected it.
308. Historic views. You would get rid of those?
(Mr Livingstone) No. We will keep historic views.
We are now going to debate exactly what they should be. I am thinking
of an extension of historic views. All the historic views at the
moment are these long corridors, long narrow triangles whereas,
if you stand at Primrose Hill or Hampstead, what has a real impact
on your view is what will be there half a mile or a mile away,
so I am thinking of a quite restricted approach in the immediate
foreground to a historic view. I also intend to go down to Richmond
Park to see whether, without my glasses on, I can distinguish
St Paul's or the Palace of Westminster. I suspect you would need
20/20 eyesight to appreciate that view.
Mrs Dunwoody: You would, however, be able to
distinguish quite clearly some of the hideous blocks between Richmond
Park and Big Ben.
Sir Paul Beresford
309. And they have probably been listed.
(Mr Livingstone) Many of them are totally unacceptable
but, in the debate about tall buildings being seen from inside
the Royal Parks, when I walk through Hyde Park or Regent's Park,
what impinges on the quality of that experience is not the fact
that you can see a tall building but the background noise of traffic
and over-flying aircraft. If you said to Londoners, "Which
of these is the major problem", the actual view or the tall
building peaking over the trees is not the real problem. We should
not persuade ourselves that walking through Regent's Park is a
wilderness experience. If you want that you go to the Cairngorms.
It is a major urban park and there will be buildings visible.
I would much rather tackle the traffic and aircraft noise which
is a real disbenefit to being in our parks.