Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Minutes of Evidence

Examination of Witnesses (Questions 310-329)



Mrs Dunwoody

  310. I am sorry to bring you back to what you have said but in Policy Guidelines, the document that you have provided to us, it says towards the London Plan, "The Mayor has placed London world city functions firmly at the centre". Then it says, "a wide range of locations", and it goes on to list them on Canary Wharf, parts of Westminster, new locations such as Paddington and eventually Victoria, London Bridge and Waterloo. So I ask you again: do you intend to regard existing railway stations, particularly in view of what you say in this document about the importance of keeping Railtrack on board which is not what you say but is what it means, as suitable for very tall buildings and for redevelopment?
  (Mr Livingstone) Each site has to be looked at differently. At Victoria I would take a lot of persuading to see any building above 20 storeys.

  311. So you did not actually mean it?
  (Mr Livingstone) 20 storeys is a tall building in Victoria. These things are in the context of their site, whereas Renzo Piano's Tower may come in at slightly over 60 storeys at London Bridge, where it will not be out of context. It will not have the same impact as it would do in Victoria.

  312. Waterloo?
  (Mr Livingstone) That is more of a problem because it impacts clearly on this world heritage site so you would look at that sensitively, but you need to see what scheme is coming up and the architects need to know. They are likely to be rejected if they come up with something that does not enhance the whole area.


  313. St Pancras?
  (Mr Livingstone) St Pancras has the problem, and King's Cross, that they are right smack in the centre of the historic views from Primrose Hill and Hampstead Heath down to here and St Paul's.

Mrs Dunwoody

  314. So they can be seen from Hampstead?
  (Mr Livingstone) This will be a decision that is influenced largely by Campden Council. I discussed with the leadership what we should do in terms of heights on the site and their view is that Campden Council would reject anything that impinged on those views, and I have to respect the decision of the local authority in that area, so I expect some very dense development but not of great height. I regret that because I think you could sustain something there.

Chris Grayling

  315. Taking you to the transport implications of what you are doing, you are talking about building a number of major new office buildings around London, each of which will absorb fairly large numbers of workers, yet we have a public transport system in London bursting at the seams already. How is that going to work?
  (Mr Livingstone) This office development planning policy only works—and forget height; it is just the extra half a million jobs—if we get the transport infrastructure to go with it. In the short term, the expansion of the bus system will take the strain but, unless we get the completion of Thameslink 2000, Crossrail 1, the East London line and, hopefully, Crossrail 2, I should imagine this could be sustained without Crossrail 2 but without those three developments it would be a nightmare. Without a serious and rapid upgrading of the quality of service provided by the Underground as well, it would be a problem.

  316. You say in the short term the bus system would be able to take the strain and you would be putting a lot of improvements to the bus network and you are hoping the congestion charging will free up central London buses but, given the nature of the buildings you are putting up and are being asked to take decisions on, a lot of those people are not going to live in central London. A significant number are going to come in from the outer suburbs or beyond the boundaries of London, so the issue is as much about capacity on the routes into London as about improving the bus network in the centre. Are you going to have an enormous problem getting those people into London?
  (Mr Livingstone) If none of those rail schemes went ahead this would become a explosive situation but we are very close to agreeing a funding package on the East London line: I am confident that we will have a funding agreement with the government over the next year on Crossrail: we are exploring all the options, and a similar approach when Thameslink 2000 comes through, but if the government was to say to me now, "None of these projects would be built", one would have to say much of this development in terms of half a million new business services and jobs would not come to central London. The pattern of the last 25 years is that employment, contrary to everything socialists like myself would like to see about dispersal, has concentrated in the centre. The 600,000 jobs we lost in manufacturing was scattered fairly evenly across the boroughs; the concentration of business services and jobs was absolutely at the core. In the last decade 62 per cent of all new employment in London has happened between Kensington and Canary Wharf, with the sole exception of Barnet, the only non-core borough to see a substantial increase, and the only other borough I should mention is based on the airport at Hillingdon. Apart from Hillingdon and Barnet, however, the core of all new employment creation has been generated at the centre.

  317. I have two basic points on what you say about that. One is Crossrail. The Strategic Rail Authority plan is a 2010-and beyond project. These planning applications are on your desk today. Likewise, Thameslink 2000 may increase the throughput of trains through London, but it does not actually increase the number of trains coming from London into the top filtration points and the bottom filtration points, so you are not getting more suburban services as a result. Given that, you have buildings that are likely to be built over the course of the next five years, but we have transport improvements which will not deliver extra services or are ten or 15 years away. Are we not going to have a major problem in the shorter term?
  (Mr Livingstone) Yes, the Strategic Rail Authority has not been directly involved in the development. It is involved now in terms of Crossrail, but certainly this is something which was pushed for very strongly by my office since the election, and we are making very good progress between myself and the Minister of Transport, John Spellar. We have agreed a shortlist of routes for the non-core section of Crossrail, which goes out to public consultation in a few weeks. We expect a final decision on the route by the end of the year. I am hopeful. The Government has to decide whether it sees a Transport Works Act or a Hybrid Bill, but I am hopeful it will be a Hybrid Bill, so that we could have the parliamentary process cleared by the end of 2003 or early 2004, and we are looking for construction to finish by 2011.

  318. So you are saying the SRA plan is wrong where it says it does not matter?
  (Mr Livingstone) Richard Bowker of the SRA sits with me on the committee with the Minister of Transport. That is the strategy we have agreed. I think he would say that his strategic rail ten-year plan is about their plans. This is a joint vehicle between TFL and the Strategic Rail Authority. It is outside the funding stream, which is why there is discussion between myself and the Government about the various options, about how we pay for it. We are preparing a plan to say that a substantial proportion of the costs should be borne by a levy on the landowners in the area whose property values will soar. We now know that following the construction of the Jubilee line land values soared in the immediate vicinity of stations by 400 per cent. Clearly that is something that should be tapped into in order to construct these major civil engineering projects.

  319. How do you realise that in cash terms? I saw a paper on this recently which looked at all the land gain around the Jubilee line, but how do you actually realise it? If somebody owns a building today and they own a building tomorrow, and between today and tomorrow a nice new rail line has been opened, unless they sell that building then there is no cash ever realised which you can fairly levy, is there?
  (Mr Livingstone) We are working on a paper for submission to John Spellar. Do not forget, that is only one option. There is the question of whether or not there is a bond issue. The Deputy Prime Minister did say in the last Parliament that Crossrail could be a candidate for bond option. I would have no objection to a PFI. The important part is just getting it built. The funding mechanism is secondary to that overall drive.

  320. The reason I was pressing you about specific schemes is that there have been reports that plans to develop the eastern end of Bishopsgate have been put on the backburner because it is not possible to construct a new Central line station there that is near the Central line. Is that true?
  (Mr Livingstone) I do not understand. What we are planning to do at Bishopsgate is that the East London line runs through the development. There is currently a debate about this and I think English Heritage has asked to list the whole site. I have made strong representations against that. Clearly the Braithwaite arches could be listed, and I think they are valuable, but the rest of the site I think is of a very different order. I would be surprised if there was some listing which went there. The East London line will go through Bishopsgate goods yard. We are currently discussing this with the Government, because the initial thinking was that we would have four-car trains; clearly now, with the prospect of a major interchange at Whitechapel with Crossrail and the scale of development coming in in the Thames Gateway, we think that justifies eight-car trains.
  (Mr Dolphin) The capacity problem on the Central line would be relieved by the construction of Crossrail. It is at that point that the plans for a station at Bishopsgate goods yard on the Central line could be put into play with an interchange with the East London line.


  321. There are some suggestions that great movements of industry end up building buildings that are out of date. Looking at big textile mills in the north of England, a lot of them were built just about when the textile industry needed something different, and some of the big railway stations. Is there not a danger that all these tall buildings in London might just arrive at a point when electronic commerce really means that we do not need this sort of concentration?
  (Mr Livingstone) Broadly I have been reading for 35 years that technology would mean that the modern office is no longer required. I have to say that I see no evidence that any of those predictions has actually been borne out. As London develops as a global finance centre, it clearly does seem to be the case that the business community does not consider electronic communication or no doubt holographic projections, which must be just down the road, as a substitute for meeting in a room with the people with whom you are doing multi-million pound deals.

  322. So you think that in 20 years' time people will be able to look round the skyscrape of London, see all these buildings and refer to them as "Livingstone's towers" rather than "Livingstone's folly"?
  (Mr Livingstone) I suspect that in 20 years' time people will have trouble remembering who I am!

  Mrs Dunwoody: We all doubt that. We are so pleased to see this new streak of humility!

  Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very much for your evidence.

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