Examination of Witnesses (Questions 20-39)|
TUESDAY 22 JANUARY 2002
20. And then what; is that projected on to the
(Mr Rees) As far as one can see at the moment; it
depends. There must come a point, a cut-off, at which you cannot
cope with getting the number of people in. I do not know when
that would be, but I can say that, before the war, with steam
engines pulling the trains and men pulling levers to operate the
points, half a million people a day came to and from the City
of London; it is now just over 300,000. So there is considerable
capacity in the system, albeit it needs a fair amount of maintenance,
as we are all aware.
21. But, in terms of the actual buildings, have
you projected a limit, even if we go to sort of 50 floors, or
then there is a growth and future demand and we go to 75, 100?
(Mr Bennett) We have predicted that over the next
15 years not only can the City accommodate all known requirements
but also City fringe areas, neighbouring boroughs, as well, right
on the boundary.
22. But that is all now, is it not; we have
just been talking about the growth carrying on, and the further
growth now for the next ten years, that was not needed ten years
ago, so in ten years' time, just as you are now saying we have
got to go to 50 floors, surely the logic of that is you come back
and say it must be 75 floors, it has got to be 100 floors, to
keep on growing?
(Mr Rees) No, not necessarily, because technology
changes, because the way jobs are done changes. It may well be
that in ten to 15 years' time we have the City operating 24 hours
a day, because it makes logical sense not to have three world
financial centres but to have one and to have it working around
the clock, rather than passing the business on round the world.
23. So if we wait ten years then there is no
need for these tall buildings?
(Mr Rees) The problem is, you cannot wait ten years,
because you have lost it by then because they have all gone elsewhere.
(Ms Mayhew) I think we do have to continue to give
what the international financial centres want.
24. So it is demand-led then, purely demand-led?
(Ms Mayhew) It is demand-led, but it is in the context
of the protection of St Paul's and the conservation areas. But
I think what is important is to recognise that over about 60 storeys
the buildings get less economic, because you require more staircases,
more service areas, and so, at the moment, 50 to 60 storeys is
the maximum height which is economic for developers to build in
London, and we are not looking at anything bigger than that.
25. Can I ask you, does not the destruction
of the `twin towers' in New York inevitably mean that construction
costs and maintenance costs of tall buildings will increase substantially,
in order to comply with probably increased safety requirements
that will come in?
(Ms Mayhew) Just initially to answer that, before
I turn to the experts. We have always had much tougher building
regulations in the United Kingdom than in the United States, we
have always had much more detailed evacuation procedures, much
wider staircases, more provision, we build in a different way;
but post Ronan Point our building regulations were tightened up
very, very considerably, so we are not comparing like with like.
Although a lot of work is being done by both American and English
engineers to look at this, at this point we do not see costs rising
substantially here, because we are meeting a far higher standard,
quite rightly, already.
(Mr Rees) And I think we need to go back to the area
of scale. The World Trade Center accommodated, I think, getting
on for 100,000 people, in those two buildings; we are talking
about buildings of fewer than 10,000 people, absolutely maximum,
that is going up to 60 storeys on the sort of floor plates that
we are talking about. These are wholly different buildings, but
with greater amounts of servicing, as has been said. Firemen do
not have to go up the staircases in this country as the people
are coming down, which probably was a sight that amazed you in
the World Trade Center. The central cores are fully fire-proofed,
in concrete structures, in the buildings we are talking about;
that was not the case in the World Trade Center, it was a core
that had been built afterwards, within the building. They are
very different kinds of structures. And, again, I think we should
point out that there have been threatened gas attacks on underground
railway systems; we are not talking about abandoning our Underground.
26. Do you believe that the existing fire regulations
are stringent enough, in the light of what happened to the `twin
(Mr Rees) There is a lot to be learned. It would be
wrong to be complacent, that there is nothing to learn; of course,
there is something to learn from every disaster. In fact, a firm
of British engineers, Arup Partnership, are leading the research
in the States, looking into how these buildings are constructed
and how you evacuate them. A number of other British engineering
consultancies are leading the way, in gleaning the evidence that
can be gleaned from what happened, to improve safety yet further.
But, as I say, the scale is very different, the regulations are
already much tighter in this country; but, of course, there is
scope for improvement.
27. Earlier, in giving your evidence to us today,
you rejected the recommendations from the London Planning Advisory
Committee, on the grounds that they were based on evidence which
was, I think you said, four years old. Now, suppose the economic
situation, in terms of growth, changed in the next four years,
or six years, or eight years, what does that mean for a policy
of going ahead with tall buildings today?
(Ms Mayhew) Quite obviously, it is demand-led; if
people decided that buildings were not economic, for whatever
reason, they would not build them. But I think we are in an unusual
position; being an international financial centre, we are involved
not just in domestic British finance but we are actually the world's
biggest international financial centre, a third of the world's
foreign exchange dealing is done in London every day. So that
we are in a growth area, because there is a huge growth in capital
flows worldwide, and as long as we can remain pre-eminent and
offer people what they need, and that is choice, we are not complacent
but we are fighting our corner to maintain our position as the
world's greatest financial centre, and therefore we hope that
we will be the place of first choice. And we are, in world terms,
less expensive than some of our competitors, it is less expensive
to operate in London than it is in New York and in Frankfurt and
in Tokyo; so we are fighting very hard to keep that business for
the UK economy.
28. But does that automatically mean that we
need more and more tall buildings to attract that business?
(Ms Mayhew) Certainly, in the City it means that,
in the area in which we can build them, we need to have some,
if people want them; but it may be that they want groundscrapers
or campus developments. What you have to give people is choice,
that you do not say, "You must go into this building;"
it does not work like that.
29. But does that mean then that you need tall
buildings which do not have an end user?
(Ms Mayhew) You do, certainly, if you want to offer
multi-lets to groups of small companies that are going to move
out into bigger buildings, because they tend to want to share
facilities to keep their costs down, and that is important, and
when they get a bit bigger they move out. You will find in the
City that virtually all the big buildings that are solo occupied
are pre-let before they are built.
(Mr Bennett) Could I just add as well that, in fact,
the whole economic life of buildings is getting shorter and shorter,
particularly in the City, where, this changing demand, this developing
demand, probably ten years ago the floor plate needs of some of
the big traders was maybe 20,000 square feet, we have now seen
it growing over that period to 60,000 square feet. It is not saying
it is going to go on growing, because probably it has now got
to the point where it is the maximum size, in terms of modern
needs; but it may change. What we see in the City is a third of
the buildings having been redeveloped in the last ten years, and
a need to recycle buildings and sites on an ongoing basis; so
that tall buildings may well be recycled in the future, who knows.
But it does mean that there is an active market, in terms both
of demand and investment, because investment is needed to do these
buildings, which will actually produce this continuing product,
this building product.
30. So the attraction of the City is that it
is a building site for ever?
(Ms Mayhew) No.
(Mr Rees) Yes; and, therefore, that the rest of London
does not have to be, and that is important.
31. Let us get it on the record; yes and no,
is that right?
(Mr Bennett) And it is all for sale.
32. What form does the recycling take, that,
Mr Bennett, you have just spoken about? You just said that it
might be that tall buildings need to be recycled; what do you
(Mr Bennett) I think that one of the interesting things
about modern tall buildings is the need to look at the environmental
impact and the sustainability issue; and certainly some of the
more modern proposals are looking at not only how the building
is built but how it can be demolished and how it can be reused,
and materials reused and recycled. And that is sort of a very
different approach today than perhaps ten, 15, 20 years ago.
33. When you say reused, do you mean redeveloped
for other uses, or do you mean demolished; as we build them, are
we planning for demolition?
(Mr Rees) That goes back to the Chairman's point,
in fact; it is yes and no, because
34. Which is the `yes' bit?
(Mr Rees) Because on the last ten-year cycle we have
been seeing buildings coming down that had been up for only 20
or 30 years; now that is not very sustainable. What we have seen
is, with the taller buildings, these buildings are more capable
of adaptation, either, as in the case of the NatWest Tower, into
a different kind of pattern of office use, or, in terms of City
Point, taking off the outside and the core out of the middle,
keeping the structure, which is a very valuable resource, and
recladding the building and reservicing the building to provide
for modern office accommodation. Now that has avoided those buildings
having to come down completely. So the answer, in yes and no,
is indeed in that sense.
(Ms Mayhew) Because, you see, as you get new technology,
you need greater floor and ceiling height to deal with the cabling;
but one day we will all be digital and we will not need that.
35. You will not need the City at all then,
(Ms Mayhew) No, no; you will always need top centres
to manage people, because you always need to bring your top people
together to manage them and to control them, because people are
gregarious, they like working together, and they like brainstorming.
(Mr Rees) It is like the House of Commons, you know,
people like to come together.
36. Should this reuse then be part of the planning
brief and the design brief when a new building is thought up?
(Ms Mayhew) I think that might well be too constraining;
but what we are finding, on the environmental impact assessments,
is that people are really taking this seriously. Sustainable development
is a serious issue for the City of London, and we do look at it
37. We were talking about the demand being there
for these tall buildings, and the fact that there has to be a
choice for developers and people who are going to occupy them.
What about the choice for people who live in London to have their
historic landscape preserved; perhaps some of them do not actually
want to see it destroyed?
(Ms Mayhew) We do not destroy our historic landscape.
The vast majority of the City is actually a conservation area,
and we do protect St Paul's heights. And, I think, if you looked
at the way in which we have adapted some of the historic buildings
to modern use, you would be very proud of them. If we look particularly
at the Merrill Lynch building, which is a groundscraper, that
has preserved wonderfully the old Edwardian Post Office and other
parts, an 18th century part of the building as well; and the way
in which that has been done, and created pedestrian space and
open space as well, has been hugely sympathetic. So I think we
are able to do that. We do respect our conservation areas. But
we do have one triangle that is not a conservation area, that
does not have a medieval street pattern.
(Mr Rees) And I think it is important to differentiate;
there are those, principally architects, who would like the commissions,
I have no doubt, that would suggest dotting high buildings all
over London, wherever the opportunity arises. The City does not
perceive the need for high buildings as landmarks, identifiers,
or architectural icons.
38. What you mean is that you want them but
no-one else should have them?
(Mr Rees) Not at all, no. What we believe is, they
should be in a limited number of clusters, that Croydon has just
as good a claim, as an important satellite, Canary Wharf has just
as good a claim, as an important satellite, but you need to group
them rather than scattering them all over, and, as you say, having
a negative impact on people's residential environments.
(Ms Mayhew) The unusual thing is that we have got
two of the tallest residential towers in the country, and because
they are well maintained and well looked after I think
(Ms Mayhew) Three; then people are not unhappy about
Mrs Dunwoody: Yes; well, we live in them, we
do not have to look at them, we just sit inside and look out.