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Tall building plans are key to city status, says Livingstone

London mayor Ken Livingstone has reinforced his commitment to constructing a series of tall buildings built in the capital by stressing that they will be 'essential' if London is to preserve its status as one of the three 'world cities', alongside New York and Tokyo.

Speaking at the AJ conference 'Tall Storeys?' as the AJ went to press, Livingstone said that, because of 'astronomical' rents for office space in the City of London he will enable high-quality, welldesigned 'landmark' buildings at high densities to be built on sites around transport interchanges.

'Rents. . . are a deterrent to firms wanting to come here, ' he told a packed Jarvis Hall at the RIBA. 'As a socialist in this situation I can either increase supply or do it by bureaucratic regulation - I want to see an increase in supply.'

He stressed that the demand for 'prestige' 100,000m 2-plus buildings from international companies had to be met if London was not to fall behind cities such as Frankfurt, Berlin and Paris. It could take 100 years to regain lost ground, he said, and a projected London population growth to 8.1 million by 2015 was also a key driver.

Livingstone's team compiling the Spatial Development Strategy, or London Plan, has identified sites where such buildings may be accommodated, including areas to the north-east of the City, 'further development' at Canary Wharf, at east London's Stratford, in the Thames Gateway area and above existing rail termini.

'London is a dynamic city and I believe this should be reflected in its modern architecture, ' said Livingstone. 'Interesting, well-designed and particularly clustered tall buildings will add to London's vitality, enhance London's skyline and contribute to the built environment.'

He added that he would review the 'narrow definition' of view corridors and, in a message to the heritage lobby, said the eye-catching buildings from Hampstead Heath were Canary Wharf and the BT tower, not St Paul's. The mayor also attacked the Royal Parks Agency, which said that the KPF-designed Heron Tower would destroy views. 'What really destroys the ambience is the noise from cars and aeroplanes, ' he said.

Livingstone said Renzo Piano's plan for a 'shard of glass' pyramidal tower over London Bridge station was a 'breathtaking addition to the skyline'.

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