Examination of Witnesses (Questions 250-269)|
TUESDAY 29 JANUARY 2002
250. What is the actual evidence that more office
space of the type you are talking about needed in central London
has to be provided by tall buildings? Where is the evidence for
that, rather than anecdotal comments?
(Mr Livingstone) It is a mixture. As I said, we will
have something of the order of 15-20 tall buildings over the next
15 years and, if they are a million square feet each, we are talking
15-20 million square feet of office space. We are talking just
in the Thames Gateway contained within London of 65 million square
feet of developable space over the next 15 years, so it is part
of it. Most of what comes will be medium rise or low rise and
we will consciously try and encourage the development of other
centres such as Croydon, where we can at places like Harrow and
individual small clusters of offices around London, but there
is a clear, driven-by-economic-forces desire that these firms
locate towards the centre and for many of them what they want
to see, with that million square feet of space, is a concentration
of all their entire headquarters facilities in one place on the
globe. I am glad they are coming here. The City Corporation is
in discussions with, I think, half a dozen or more firms that
are thinking of re-locating over the coming years.
251. The research that the Greater London Authority
has commissioned, and we have a report in front of us of the research
as it is at the moment, does draw attention to the impact of globalisation
and talks about whole sectorsinformation technology in
particularpossibly moving away from London to India and
to other places. Would that have any impact on your plans?
(Mr Livingstone) It will, clearly. Some work currently
being done in London will eventually move to places like India.
What has happened, and this is where globalisation has transformed
London, is that over the last 15 years New York and London and
Tokyo emerged as the three great financial centres and my fear
would be, if, say, you had a Mayor who was going to have a blanket
ban on rejecting all of these buildings, they will eventually
locate somewhere else in Europe. Clearly, in this third of the
world, London, in this band of time zones, is the financial centre
but Frankfurt, Paris and perhaps Berlin would all be quite happy
to take that off us with devastating consequencesnot just
for London but for the whole national economy.
252. How tall is a tall building?
(Mr Livingstone) Well, I would have been quite happy
if Renzo Piano's tower which is under consideration for London
Bridge had been the original 90 storeys. Because of flightpaths
over London, I do not think you get much over about 65. That is
the restriction but, if there is the capacity to build to that
height and it fits the site and adds to the overall benefit of
London, I would not have a restriction, but effectively, whereas
up until now the tallest office building has been of the order
of the Nat West Tower, 42 storeys, you could easily go up to 60
253. Are tall buildings the only way to find
the provide the space that you think is required?
(Mr Livingstone) I think you could clearly provide
this accommodation in medium rise and low rise buildings. The
real problem then of being able to do that in the area where clearly
these firms wish to locate, either Canary Wharf or the north east
corner of the City Corporation, is there is a limit to how much
ground-hugging building you can get in any one place without completely
removing any available open space for the local community and
our problem is, and it is a problem vis-a-vis our major competitors,
that the total occupancy cost of office space in London is twice
that of New York: it is twice to three times that of our major
European rivals; and, therefore, what we clearly have got in London
is a problem of supply. Far be it from me to argue the realities
of the market but, if we have the problem of cost, we need to
increase the supply.
254. It might be expensive to supply it so it
might not bring the cost down.
(Mr Livingstone) Where we are talking about tall buildings,
very often we are talking about a statement for a particular corporation.
In the same way that many
255. Wait a minute, you were telling us it was
the economic cost and it was too expensive and you needed to bring
the market down. That is a very different argument to the argument
that they want a prestige building and will pay anything for it?
(Mr Livingstone) But there are two factors here. We
have to provide an increase in office space to accommodate half
a million new jobs over the next 15 years. The vast majority of
that will not be high rise buildings and it is a decision by the
board of a corporation whether they want to spend the extra and
have a good quality architect produce a landmark building which
will go high, whereas they might get something cheaper, and certainly
would get it cheaper if they located it in Croydon.
256. I am still not clear what is really motivating
you. Is it to do with needing more space and believing it can
only be done by tall buildings, or is it to do with one of the
other reasons you cite in your list, what you believe are the
advantages that clusters can bring to London skyline?
(Mr Livingstone) Whilst you can have an individual
landmark building over something like a major rail termini that
can stand alone providing the architecture justifies it, what
we clearly are seeing market forces drive us towards is a cluster
of tall buildings in the north east corner of the city around
Bishopsgate and Liverpool Street, and the firms that will locate
there will largely be headquarters firms for great international
corporations: they seem to want to be able to cluster together.
Part of my strategy is, through the creation of the Crossrail
project, you will create a rail link between that and Canary Wharf
which means it is five minutes from one cluster to another, so
you do not get the problem of post-war New York of mid-town Manhattan
and Wall Street being seen as rivalsif one is going up,
the other is going down. It is driven by the demand of those corporations,
therefore. If we take Swiss Re Tower, if the City Corporation
had refused that I think Swiss Re would have gone to another European
city to build in. It would not have come back with a low rise
257. What is the evidence for that?
(Mr Livingstone) Well, the fact that the City Corporation
is in negotiation with firms that want to come here and want to
locate. There would be some speculative buildingHeron Tower
is speculative in that sensebut most of these developments
have a client identified from the beginning.
258. I am still quite confused because you started
off by applauding the good work done by Lord Rogers and your task
force, and one of the key findings of that group was that tall
buildings are not necessary in order to meet high density. So
my question to you really is this: why are you not getting that
message over to these inward financial potential investors saying,
"Look at Kensington; look at the density of those wonderful
Victorian, Georgian terraces and squares; look at Paris, you can
have an attractive headquarters here in London, built to a very
high density"? Are you doing that or saying that?
(Mr Livingstone) No. The position is you could not
get the concentration of office accommodation in that sector around
Liverpool Street and Bishopsgate by low-rise developments.
259. But I think we were told last week that
that is what is happening at Paddington. They have lowered the
buildings and, in fact, the density is going to be just as great.
(Mr Livingstone) The Paddington development pre-dates
my arrival on the screen but Mr Dolphin was the predecessor organisation,
(Mr Dolphin) The Paddington building designed by Lord
Rogers in his private capacity has been reduced in height at Westminster
City Council's insistence. It has resulted in a scheme with roughly
the same amount of floor space but laid out differently. I think
it probably lacks the spaciousness that the taller building allowed.
You gain and you lose if you raise or lower the height. In terms
of densities generally, can I make a comment on Paris? Paris certainly
has high residential densities, vastly higher in the core of Paris
than anything in London, but in terms of commercial density Paris
has had to almost export its office development out to the periphery,
to places like La Defense where they build tall. They cannot build
and get the density they want in ground-hugging buildings so,
even in Paris, they have to build skyscrapers, which many people
claim to be disfiguring the famous view along the Champs Elysees
but that is Paris' problem. London is different from Paris; it
is much more flexible; and the view the Mayor has taken is that
London is able to accommodate tall buildings in certain places
without damaging the character of London.
260. So what you are saying is we have to accept
tall buildings for commercial use but not for residential?
(Mr Livingstone) I would be quite happy to consider
tall buildings for residential use but my experience as chair
and vice chairman of various housing committees in London in the
1970s is that, unless you put in the management support and build
for real quality, they turn out to be a disaster. You cannot go
for the cheapest lift if you are putting in a residential block.
You have to have a concierge at the bottom; you have to have skilled
housing management to make sure you do not put a concentration
of families with particular needs that makes the project become
very unattractive very rapidly, so you could do it. Certainly
when I move around Paris or Madrid, I do not get a feeling of
oppression. You get these incredibly dense areas in terms of occupation
but they have got it right, and the residential developments we
had in the 1960s and 1970s did not.
261. You were arguing the case for headquarters
of major companies and if they want to go higher and have a prestige
building we have to accommodate them or they go elsewhere, but
that is not the argument for developments the city were arguing
for last week where there are multi-occupiers of high rise buildings.
In these circumstances would you be slightly more reserved about
your support for a high rise?
(Mr Livingstone) There are differences between myself
and the City Corporation. They have set their face against mixed
use developments of residential and office which I think works
particularly well in New York and I regret that, but I am in a
position where I can direct refusal a project that comes up. I
cannot grant permission for one that the borough or the council
or the City Corporation does not want.
262. You have a few powers of negotiation, have
(Mr Livingstone) What is tending to happen is developers
are coming to Giles' team at an early stage, often before they
have gone to the initial authority, to get a strategic steer and
to see the way that their development might fit into our overall
strategic plans for London.
263. But surely, if you wanted to use your veto
and told the City of London they have got to put some residential
into their blocks, they would take a bit of notice, would they
(Mr Livingstone) Broadly I try not to interfere in
what the lower tier planning authorities are doing. I think I
have seen 350 schemes and have directed refusal in about ten,
largely where green belt is being taken. I aim to try and negotiate,
and we have had some success in getting improved affordable housing
in a lot of developments but the city has created a pattern which,
frankly, it is most probably too late to change. I would be delighted
if some of the towers coming forward in the Bishopsgate/Liverpool
Street area had a residential element, but I am not in a position
to insist on that.
264. Are you going to look less favourably on
high rise developments which are there for multioccupied use,
and are not about a large corporation going to another city somewhere
else if London does not accommodate them?
(Mr Livingstone) My job is to ensure we secure our
premier position in this third of the world as a financial centre
and not endanger that. I have to say as well that it seems that,
when a developer is coming forward with a tall building, they
have a good architect. If I was being more free with my directions
to refuse it would be for medium and low-rise proposals, which
seems to have been built with less imagination. I think any architect
or developer, knowing they are going to be talking 40 to 60 storeys,
knows they have to have a damn fine scheme or it is going to be
rejected. I wish the same thinking was there with those people
coming up with groundhuggers.
265. The interim guidance that you have put
forward on tall buildings seems to conflict again with what the
City were arguing for last week. They were arguing for clusters
which I think you support, but you also go on to argue that there
may be a case for pepperpotting, single individual tall buildings
around the place, which the City said they thought clusters were
meant to avoid. Can you justify that? We can see the argument
for clusters, but why pepperpotting?
(Mr Livingstone) The City Corporation is there to
fight for City Corporation. My job is to take a broader, London-wide
view, and therefore I want maximum development across London,
and I would like to spread it a bit farther than around the City
Corporation. I have, therefore, been particularly keen to encourage
developments at Canary Wharf and will do so at Stratford and at
Elephant & Castle where it comes along. Those are all clusters
but it does seem to me, where you have a major rail terminus so
that people can get to their work by public transport, then that
justifies a building providing it is of sufficient quality.
266. So is it just rail termini?
(Mr Livingstone) Bus termini do not get the sort of
turnaround that would allow that. Paddington could have sustained
a higher density; Victoria, where I think height impacts on the
historic areas around, militates against too high a building.
I think the proposals for Victoria Station mostly come in at about
20 storeys. It depends on where you are in London. If I was the
Mayor of Paris and had inherited a city designed by one person,
Haussmann, clearly fitting a pattern, one would have to say that
tall buildings were out, but that is not the city we have. We
have a city that has developed much more organically and unplanned,
and it has diversity. To have a cluster of tall buildings in the
middle of Westminster would be totally unacceptable. I look forward
to the demolition of the Marsham Street Towers which are horrendous
and totally destroy the view of Parliament from the South Bank
and the Thames.
267. Before you leave that topic, some of the
evidence you have been getting is that your office space calculations
are based largely on financial services, and there is a warning
notice that if anything goes wrong with them we are in trouble.
They have also got rather dismissive comments about the decisions
of financial firms to move; you say they like the cluster but
you also have evidence from the people working for you that there
are other problemsthey do not want to be in areas like
Croydon, about which there are some cruel comments, and there
are other difficulties. Are you really saying that, firstly, you
are convinced that you are going to need all this extra office
space and, secondly, that the densities cannot be achieved in
the places which still have space including, according to you,
"Smithfields . . . City & General . . . total residential
space . . . over 9 million spare feet which could generate a gain
in the order of 6 million square feet". Now, before you tell
me that there is a caveat in here saying, "Do not believe
a word of it because it is not finished", this is the evidence
on which presumably you are taking decisions?
(Mr Livingstone) Well, I would be delighted if there
was a desire in the business community not to cluster
268. No. Are you taking all your decisions only
on the basis of financial services?
(Mr Livingstone) Financial and business services.
The reality I have had to accept is that the London economy has
been transformed in 25 years. Manufacturing has gone and, if I
was to stop the development of business services, nothing else
would be in its place.
269. I think which have heard that, Ken. Are
you also saying that Canary Wharf and the City are not going to
work together and that, for example, the site at Bishopsgate goods
yard will not be suitable because financial services firms have
reservations about being close to deprived wards in London?
(Mr Livingstone) I am certain that Bishopsgate will
produce a landmark building and it is sufficiently close to Liverpool
Street to be part of that Liverpool Street cluster. I would like
it if a lot of firms wished to relocate to Croydon so you reduce
the pressure on people travelling into central London