Select Committee on Transport, Local Government and the Regions Memoranda


Memorandum by Legal and General Property Limited (TAB 13)

The role of tall buildings in achieving high densities in residential areas

  There is an important role to play for tall buildings in achieving high density in residential areas. There is a need to cater for the projected significant population growth and to meet the country's substantial housing requirements in a sustainable manner.

  Although relatively untested in the UK, with the exception of the 1960's tower blocks, other leading European Cities have successfully achieved high density (including high rise) residential development. It is important that high rise residential developments are well located, well designed and managed effectively in order to avoid the mistakes of the 1960s, but there is no reason why this cannot be a successful solution to projected housing requirements.

  This is particularly true in central locations where residential land supply is restricted.

The provision for offices for certain types of global companies

  It is acknowledged that certain global companies want to be located in tall buildings, particularly within London. It follows that failure to meet these companies' requirements will prejudice London's position as a world financial centre.

  London needs new locations to cater for these requirements in order to maintain choice for international companies. Currently the only options for the development of tall buildings are Canary Wharf and certain, limited, locations within the City of London.

  In addition to particular companies' requirements there is also a general need to cater for projected significant economic growth. To cater for this growth, the supply of flexible and quality office space must increase. Dispersing London's global commercial function is neither feasible in market terms nor acceptable environmentally, therefore, increasing supply means higher density development and thus, in some cases, tall buildings.

A MEANS OF ENHANCING THE BEAUTY OF OUR CITIES

  Good quality tall buildings are not damaging to the heritage of a city. On the contrary, tall buildings can make a positive contribution to a cities character and appearance. A number of tall buildings have been listed as they are felt to make a positive contribution (eg Centre Point and Millbank, London).

  In certain circumstances tall buildings, as landmarks, can provide an icon for the wider regeneration of an area and encourage civic pride. An obvious example of this is Canary Wharf and is evident in regional centres which are pursuing tall buildings of their own.

WHERE TALL BUILDINGS SHOULD BE LOCATED?

  Tall buildings should be located where they:

    —  are well linked to good quality transport infrastructure with existing capacity or capability of extra capacity following improvements ensuring efficient use of existing investment and minimal impact;

    —  have a positive relationship with other tall buildings where relevant;

    —  do not detract from the existing environment especially conservation areas, world heritage sites, historic parks and gardens, other open spaces and important views; and

    —  can create a catalyst for wider regeneration.

WHAT RESTRICTIONS IF ANY SHOULD BE PLACED ON THE LOCATION OF TALL BUILDINGS?

  There are very few impacts from tall buildings that are not controlled through existing measures. All tall building proposals would need to be assessed in the context of Development Plan policies covering issues such as conservation, environmental considerations, transport impacts etc. Additional restrictions on the location of tall buildings are therefore not required.

  It would be useful to identify strategic sites and locations, suitable for tall buildings. A strategic development framework guiding the development of those sites provided in the relevant development plan, or in the case of London, in the London Plan would be welcomed. This is in line with the promotion of the use of Action Plans and Masterplans in the Government's Green Paper.

HOW FAR SHOULD THEY BE ALLOWED TO BLOCK EXISTING VIEWS?

  Strategic Views in London have not been reviewed since they were first introduced in 1991.

  We consider that there should be a thorough review of Strategic Views and the Wider Setting Consultation Areas. There should be a weeding out process to delete unnecessary long views, followed by a careful examination of the remaining views and the nature and extent of controls which apply, to assess what is gained in terms of public amenity having regard to impact on economic development.

  If, following this review, certain Strategic Views are considered to be important, then they should be protected.

SHOULD THEY BE CLUSTERED OR DOTTED?

  The location of tall buildings should be considered on their merits, whether they be "clustered" or "dotted".

WHETHER IN THE PRESENT MOVEMENT TO ERECT NEW TALL BUILDINGS WE ARE IN DANGER OF REPEATING THE MISTAKES OF THE 1960S

  Mistakes in the 1960s were caused by poor construction techniques; bad architectural and urban design and poor housing management.

  Important lessons have been learned in all of these fields.

Whether those making decisions are sufficiently accountable to the public

  All Local Planning Authorities are accountable to the public. All proposals for tall buildings should be decided in the first instance at this local, accountable, level.

  The process is currently being undermined by unaccountable groups (eg English Heritage) regrettably by the uncertainty of the powers of Central Government. We note that the Green Paper encourages less call-ins and quicker decisions but unfortunately provides no further clarity on its powers.

Whether the Government should have a more explicit policy on the subject

  No. As set out above, the location and provision of tall buildings is for the most part a local or metropolitan matter. Policy on the subject should therefore be in Local Plans and Unitary Development Plans and in London, in the Mayor's London Plan. National policy on this subject should not be required.


 
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