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London skyline being built by 'dirty Russian money' says Rees

London’s planning policy is failing and many new and proposed towers are little more than ‘deposit boxes’ for ‘dirty Russian money’, Peter Rees has claimed

The former City of London planning officer told BBC TV that London was becoming a victim of ‘…homogenised international architecture that is out of scale with its surroundings, damaging the London skyline and giving a very bad impression to people who visit London.’

Rees added: ‘And for what purpose? Simply to provide piles of safe deposit boxes for international investors.’

Rees, who has thrown his weight behind the AJ’s Skyline campaign, said: ‘People are buying for financial security; they are furnishing them, locking the door and maybe they come for and have a vacation for a couple of weeks a year. The rest of the time they do not even rent them out; they will be empty.

‘There will be no people; there will be no community; all that is missing is the tumbleweed blowing between the buildings.’

Rees said that London Mayor Boris Johnson should encourage developments like the 1970s-built Lillington Gardens in Pimlico by Darbourne & Darke.

He praised the estate’s low-rise, seven to eight-floor massing and its green spaces and added that there was ‘no reason at all why it could not be replicated’.

‘Only the mayor, with the strategic plan, can say “that isn’t appropriate in that location. Let’s set a height limit”,’ Rees added.

Asked if reining in developers would adversely affect London’s growth, Rees replied: ‘London house prices [will] cool and people will be able to afford to buy a home; it’s a win-win situation.

Released from the constraints of office, Rees, who is now professor of places and city planning at the Bartlett, spoke candidly about what he perceived as the questionable origins of much of the money pouring into London schemes. He said: ‘We are getting dirty Russian money being laundered and Chinese gambling [money].

‘The Chinese pay 10 per cent off-plan in Honk Kong and take out a futures contract on the apartment reaching a certain price by certain date. So it’s a combination of a casino and a laundry,’ said Rees.

Boris Johnson said it was up to local councils to deal with the problem of empty developments. He said: ‘I want to see councils use their powers to impose punitive council taxes for those that buy flats and leave them empty. We are providing for everybody in London and trying to cope with a shortfall that goes back 30 years.’

 

Readers' comments (4)

  • So, presumably those architects designing these buildings can be accused taking the same 'dirty' shilling? Please can say what you think of the architects carrying out these commissions?

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  • Robert Makes A Good Point. But What Consulting Firm Really Looks At The Origin Of A Clients Money?

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  • chris Dyson

    The point about perimeter blocks and street scale is well made.

    I firmly believe we can achieve the similar high densities without towers and with amixture of tenure it only takes a will we all live 'cheek by jowl' in London, that is what makes London so great and dtynamic, ghettos of rich or poor folks should be avoided at all costs...

    What we need streets and squares not left over spaces after an efficient tower plan has been implimented....

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  • ...I guess buildings working as deposit boxes can store any money, dirty or clean one. It does not need to be Russian. And the fact that the money is stored in the UK speaks about the state of its society allowing this to happen as much as the developers and investors. First we let money to become the absolute god and then we do not want to be dominated by it. You cannot having it both ways. It may be more complex, I know...

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