Examination of Witnesses (Questions 574-579)|
THOROTON, QC AND
TUESDAY 12 FEBRUARY 2002
574. Can I welcome you to our final session
on tall buildings. Can I ask you to identify yourself and your
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I am Lord Falconer, Minister
of Housing, Planning and Regeneration, and this is Peter Ellis
from the Planning Department from the Department of Transport,
Local Government and the Regions.
575. Do you want to say anything by way of introduction?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Could I, very briefly,
make a few remarks? I welcome the opportunity to discuss tall
buildings with you. The proposals for tall buildings cause passionate
debate, and there is an edge on the debate in the evidence that
you have heard on the issue. This looks to lump people into highly
polarised camps: you are either for tall buildings or you are
against them. The Government's policy on tall buildings is to
get the right decision out of the planning system. We have a policy
to promote good design, we want to see buildings that look good,
but good design is more than that, we want the right development
in the right place; development that respects its context and
development that is supported by the right transport infrastructure.
Nothing I say today should be taken as an implied comment on any
of the live planning applications. I am for buildingstall
or notif they demonstrate design excellence. As I have
just said, that means that they should be in the right place and
sustainable. Preferably, they should be in locations identified
by sound forward planning and clear development plans, drawn up
through effective engagement with local communities. People want
to shape the future of the places where they live and work. The
Government expects the planning system to deliver good design,
sensitive to people's needs and aspirations. We also want safe
buildings. I understand why the tragic events of September 11
has led to public concern about the safety of tall buildings.
Whilst we believe that building regulations in the United Kingdom
are already more stringent than those in the United States of
America, we do not rule out improvements. Once the United States
authorities have completed their studies into the World Trade
Centre collapse we will consider carefully any implications for
the United Kingdom and will listen to the advice of professional
bodies such as the committee set up under the chairmanship of
the Institution of Structural Engineers, from whom I believe you
heard last week.
Chairman: Thank you very much indeed.
576. Lord Falconer, how would you define a tall
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) Tallness has got to be
by reference to where it is. So what might be tall in once place
would not be tall in another place. You have to be quite careful
about looking at that issue in relation to its context. So ten
storeys or above could be very tall in some places but not in
others. You will know what the requirements for consultation with
the Mayor are, at which level beside the river and elsewhere in
the City, and that is an indication of the sort of levels in London
that represent tallness.
577. Do you support that, in general?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) In general yes, I do.
578. Can I ask for your opinion on whether or
not you consider that we do have an economic needobviously,
firstly, in London but secondly outside Londonfor tall
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) The tall building will
very frequently be doing that which the not-tall building is doing.
So the question is, is there an economic case for the particular
building? You have got developments in London like Broadgate,
which are not tall. They, presumably, could have been done tall.
Whether it be tall or not tall, what you have got to ascertain
is, is there an economic case for that particular building? Is
the place they want to put it the right place for a tall building?
Is the transport infrastructure right for that proposal?
579. Do you feel you can ever make an economic
case? We have heard such differing views, with people saying "Yes,
there is an economic case" but other people saying "Well,
actually, you can get the same amount of density from a much smaller
building". Who is right? We have heard from both sets of
experts. Who do you consider is right?
(Lord Falconer of Thoroton) I envisage that you can
make a case for a tall building in the appropriate case, but the
issues will be the same issues as they are about any buildings.
Is the design right? Is it economically sustainable? Is the transport
infrastructure right? Is the location right? So I do not rule
out the possibility of making a case for a tall building.