Examination of Witnesses (Questions 40-59)|
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002
40. But you do not want more residential accommodation,
(Ms Mayhew) No, we do not, because that would kill
the golden goose, and I think the rest of London might squeal
if it did not get our rates.
(Mr Rees) And because of the building site activity,
because you need to put people into residential environments that
are good-quality environments, if you have got a world centre
which may well be a 24-hour centre in the not too distant future,
it is not a very pleasant place to live, immediately juxtaposed.
41. Do you agree with the guidance issued by
CABE and English Heritage on tall buildings?
(Ms Mayhew) We agreed with the initial guidance, yes;
we work very closely and well with CABE. Sometimes we have problems
with English Heritage, but those are probably well documented.
(Mr Rees) As far as it goes; there are only three
pages, there is not a lot to get your teeth into.
42. Does that mean you agree with it, or you
(Mr Rees) There is not a lot to disagree with, yet.
I suspect, if it were worked up, there probably would be quite
a lot we would disagree with. As the Chairman has said, we have
very fruitful discussions with CABE, and we often have discussions
that are fruitful with English Heritage, but not always so; we
do have a different agenda.
43. Most of the evidence you have given us this
morning, in support of tall buildings, or what you call medium
buildings, is based on economic arguments, yet CABE and English
Heritage look at impact on the built environment, as what they
call the sole criterion; do you have a problem with that?
(Ms Mayhew) We have a problem with it if they choose
to ignore the economic imperative and do not weigh it up in their
considerations, but we have found CABE very sympathetic to economic
arguments as well. Someone has to keep the economy of this country
going, it is quite an important responsibility, and that is partly
our responsibility, to produce wealth for the rest of the country
to enjoy; someone has got to do it, and it happens to be our job.
And, as we are competing with, I have to say, very tough people
from New York, we have got to hold our own in this market, but
we have got to do it bearing in mind we have got some of the most
important conservation zones in the country, and we balance that.
So, yes, we want top-quality buildings, we look at the environmental
impact, we want sustainable development, we want lots of public
transport, but we have to produce the income for this country
to live, it is our responsibility.
44. Is the interim advice issued by the Mayor
(Ms Mayhew) Yes; we are quite happy with that, in
fact. Except there is one area where they said we could have tall
buildings in one of our conservation areas, and we are not quite
so happy about that; in fact, if anything, we would restrict that.
But, apart from that, yes, we are very happy.
Sir Paul Beresford
45. Can I go back half a step; you mentioned
English Heritage and their response on the economic aspects of
buildings and their designs. They have no requirement to look
at that; would it be appropriate that they should?
(Ms Mayhew) Only if they had a lot of economists,
surveyors and other professionals seconded to them, because they
do not have that expertise in-house. And I do not think it is
their role to second-guess what we are doing, because we are talking
to people who want buildings, who want to come into our markets,
all the time.
Sir Paul Beresford: But there are occasions
when one wonders whether commonsense, rather than slightly economic
commonsense, might have changed the mind of English Heritage
Mrs Dunwoody: Come now, Sir Paul, you do not
equate commonsense with economists?
Sir Paul Beresford
46. Sometimes; sometimes. And I am not equating
it with economists and English Heritage, and some of the English
Heritage decisions as well.
(Ms Mayhew) We have just replied to the brief that
was sent by the Government, the consultation document, and English
Heritage, and we do feel they should be part of a wider planning
process. It is very important that you look at the historical
context, that you look at the quality of buildings, but it must
be done in the overall context of planning; and I think you get
problems once you detach organisations from overall planning decisions,
I think it should be a totality, not detached.
47. You talked previously about public transport
and the situation of the City and it being ideal for that purpose;
but is not the reality that public transport is just about at
breaking point, at present, and if your intention is to put all
these extra offices in this concentrated area, and all the extra
people that are going to work there, with no possibility of improving
the public transport in the meantime, that is actually going to
create worse problems, in terms of overcrowding?
(Ms Mayhew) Perhaps it is better though to turn the
argument round and say, as London is growing by 100,000 a year,
and most of that is by immigration, rather than natural growth,
and we have to recognise that London is the largest urban area
in Europe, then we have to say that it would be best to have them
where at least there is some transport infrastructure, rather
than no transport infrastructure, because we do not want people
getting into cars, we do not like congestion. What we would say
is, that is why we have been so strong in pressurising for upgrading
of public transport and the development of new lines, because
if we are going to have eight million people by 2015 in London
we do need more public transport to transport those people. And
that is why we have been very strongly supportive of the East
London Line, which is a small and inexpensive scheme which we
think will do a lot for the East End, but also highly supportive
of Crossrail, because we do think we need another east/west crossing
in London, particularly linking Paddington, taking the pressure
off the Central Line, through to Liverpool Street and out to Stratford,
which is a huge, potential new area of development, with very
good railway links.
48. But these are aspirations, are they not,
and the reality is you are talking about this planned increase
in the growth of accommodation, in a fairly concentrated part
of the City, over a ten-year period, and there is not any prospect
of significantly improving capacity in public transport in that
period, is there?
(Mr Rees) There are two factors in that. First of
all, the problem that has developed in public transport, apart
from lack of maintenance, in London is that, as jobs have decentralised,
over the last ten or 15 years, from the centre, so people's travel
patterns have changed, to the point where fewer people now travel
by one mode of transport from home to their work, and a lot more
people pass through central London every day on the way to their
job. Now that causes congestion at the interchange stations in
central London, and that is where the numbers are at breaking
point. So the more you can actually concentrate in the centre
the less you have to disperse, the simpler the travel pattern
becomes, and there is actually very good evidence that you can
improve the passenger-carrying of London Underground by nearly
20 per cent by running fewer trains, at the moment. Because they
have taken their eye completely off the ball and they are not
managing the system, they are running more trains than the system
can manage, the signals and the points will not cope in their
present state with the numbers that are being run. If you can
run slightly fewer trains more regularly, so that they do not
bunch together, you can actually improve the flow and improve
49. So the solution to London's traffic problems
then is to have more people going into the City and fewer trains
taking them there?
(Ms Mayhew) More regularly, to stop the bunching.
(Mr Rees) More regularly; and that is the way that
the New York Subway was improved, they started by reducing the
number of trains to the level that the system could cope with.
And that is the first step. I am not saying it is, obviously,
the main solution, but it is actually a way of getting onto the
ball and getting something going.
50. Are you completely convinced, therefore,
that there is capacity in the public transport system to take
to work, in reasonable comfort, with reasonable efficiency, all
the extra people that you are going to be providing office accommodation
for by this planned growth of tall buildings?
(Mr Rees) Yes, we are absolutely convinced, provided
those people are located in central locations.
(Ms Mayhew) If we cannot do it, no-one else can, because
no-one has got the transport nodes that we have. And we cannot
stop people coming to London to work, we cannot say to international
immigrants, "You can't come here;" they are going to
come here, so we need to accommodate them and we need to accommodate
them close to the transport modes. No-one else has got seven main-line
stations and 13 Underground stations, with eight different Underground
lines; so it makes sense to build on success.
51. Can I just move on and talk about the residential
community; effectively, you have abandoned that now, have you
not, you say that you are going to have an area which is just
offices, full stop?
(Ms Mayhew) No, I would dispute that, speaking as
a City resident and actually as an elected member that represents
residents. We have a resident population of 7,000, that is actually,
in one area, the most densely-populated residential area in the
country, and that is the Barbican Estate, which I believe is very
well run and managed. I look nervously.
52. But that is it, is it not, you have got
what you have got and there is nothing more that you are going
to go on for?
(Ms Mayhew) We have got that; we have got four residential
districts in the City. We have our East End residential district,
which borders and goes into Tower Hamlets, we have got a group
of residents down on the river, where I live, just south of St
Paul's, there is a small residential development, and then there
is a residential development in the Temples and up in that area,
and then the large residential developments in the Barbican and
53. But what about affordable housing, for the
caretakers, the cleaners, the maintenance people, people who have
to do jobs, often with very unsocial hours?
(Ms Mayhew) We have council estates in the City, both
Golden Lane and the Mansell Street Estates; we also have
54. But what about more development, you know,
a bit of a spin-off from this?
(Ms Mayhew) We have, if you would let me finish; we
do actually have affordable housing in seven other boroughs, and
we have done an enormous amount with bodies such as Peabody and
other boroughs and other housing associations, including the East
London Housing Association, where not only have we built affordable
council housing but also currently we are exploring key worker
housing, not just key worker housing for public sector workers
but key worker housing for private sector, low-paid, private sector.
And I think you will see, in the next year or so, some very interesting
and imaginative schemes coming out of the City of London to locate
key workers in and around the City fringe area.
55. Do you not see any mixed-use possibilities
for any of these tall buildings that we are talking about?
(Ms Mayhew) I think it is difficult to have mixed
use in tall buildings, simply because the City does work 24 hours
a day, my law firm works 24 hours a day, routinely the banks work
24 hours a day. It is very difficult to have, in the same building,
or even in close proximity, residents who want to enjoy a good
night's sleep and offices that are working 24 hours a day; you
get noise of deliveries, you get generation noise, you get just
noise of people coming and going; people should not be subjected
to that. So, in a sense, we are quite lucky that the core of the
City has very little residential development. So it means if we
do need to dig up the streets we can do it at night, if we want
to, without disturbing residents, but without disturbing business
people during the day; it does make sense. But we are not, in
any way, turning our back on affordable housing or key worker
housing, we regard that as hugely important for London's success,
but we will work with other agencies to do that in the fringe.
56. Do you feel that the people who want to
put up these tall buildings are actually paying for all the infrastructure
that is needed, all the improvements to public transport, and
if they were really paying for all the things that were needed
they would not want to build at all?
(Ms Mayhew) No. Certainly, up until now, the City
has always used concepts of planning gain to enhance environmental
aspects, particularly to make sure that the buildings look nice
and are made of high-quality materials. We do pride ourselves
on our open spaces, although some of them are quite restricted,
and many of the occupiers have been asked to make environmental
improvements both to the street scene, to retail development and
also to open spaces. But recently we have moved to a point where
we are prepared to ask for planning gain from developers to contribute
to the development of stations, the enhancement of open spaces,
and the like, and, indeed, many developers have gone further;
and most of our planning gain is actually spent in the surrounding
district, on work traineeship schemes for disadvantaged people
nearby, most of the gain should be spent in the surrounding district,
that is the appropriate thing.
57. Now across the country all sorts of industries
have sort of reached their peak and built a whole series of buildings
which actually have turned out to be obsolete; you do not think
that the changing nature of the electronic world means that office
space is not going to be needed in anything like the volume, so
that you are not just at the end of a great boom and we are going
to get a lot of empty buildings?
(Ms Mayhew) We have been here for a thousand years;
we intend to continue for another thousand. I think what is interesting
about the City is the redevelopment, that we do get a third of
the City rebuilt since 1980, so our obsolescence does not last
long, because the value is such that people do redevelop, albeit
in sustainable ways.
58. Seventy-five per cent of the Wren churches
are now obsolete?
(Ms Mayhew) I think, as a Christian, I would dispute
(Mr Rees) And, of course, were tall buildings in their
(Ms Mayhew) They were very tall buildings in their
day, if you look at some of the early pictures of London. But
they have been put to quite imaginative uses. And I think that
is part of our heritage, and we owe it to them to maintain them
and look after them; and they are used, they are used for concerts,
they are used for a lot of other activities. They are wonderful
spaces for people to be able to go to.
59. So you think these tall buildings that you
are so keen on might have a future not as office space?
(Ms Mayhew) No, I think they will have a future as
office space, but they will be redeveloped.
Chairman: On that note, can I thank you very
much for your evidence. Thank you.