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Londoners do not want to live in towers, says poll

The majority of Londoners do not want to live in towers, with nearly 70 per cent of those over 34 claiming they are against high-rise living, a new survey has found

The findings were part of a wide-ranging poll by Ipsos MORI commissioned by the NLA as part of its new London’s Growing…Up! exhibition.

With 236 tall buildings in various stages of planning or construction across the capital, the poll questioned a cross section of 500 Londoners about their attitudes to skyscrapers and other tall buildings.

Forty five percent of respondents thought that tall buildings improved the London skyline while 40 per cent disagreed, and while men seemed more keen than women on the idea of high rise living, a majority of over 34s (seven out of ten) would not want to live in a tower.

The findings come as the Prince’s Foundation slammed London’s ‘glittering towers of exclusivity’ in a new report which called for more mid-rise ‘mansion blocks and garden squares’ to be built as a solution to the capital’s housing crisis (see AJ 26.03.14).

Despite a reticence for high rise living, the MORI poll discovered that 61 per cent of Londoners were happy to work in tall buildings, rising to 72 per cent among the younger demographic.

The poll also confirmed ‘long-held anecdotal evidence’ that Foster + Partners 30 St Mary Axe, better known as the Gherkin, is Londoner’s favourite building, with 36 per cent selecting it from a selection of 13 tall towers.

The Barbican was chosen as Londoners’ least favourite tall building.

Ben Marshall, research director at Ipsos MORI, said: ‘With London facing a ‘housing crisis’ and keen to grow economically, the onus tends to be on the quantity of new building. Tall towers offer promise, but our new poll for New London Architecture underlines the importance the London public place on quality and design. Opinion is mixed – Londoners might like looking at tall towers, but they are less sure about living in them.’

Other key findings:

Rank of buildings based on Londoners’ answer to- Which one of these buildings do you like best?:

The Gherkin, The Shard, The Leadenhall Building, One Canada Sqaure, Strata Tower, St George Wharf, 20 Fenchurch Street, Tower 42, Broadgate Tower, Centre Point, St Helen’s, the Heron Tower, the Barbican.

5 per cent voted none of the tall buildings in London.

Are there are too many tall buildings in London?

32 per cent agree, 39 per cent disagree. 15 per cent of 45-64 year old Londoners strongly agreed. Just of 6% of young people strongly agreed.

Have tall buildings have made London look better?

45 per cent agreed whilst 25 per cent disagreed. 13 per cent of Men strongly agreed and 6% of women strongly agreed. 35 per cent of older people agreed whilst 38 per cent disagreed.

What is the highest priority when deciding whether a new tall building should be built?

  • 53 per cent opted for whether it looks right in relation to its surroundings as the highest priority.
  • 35 per cent opted for good design.
  • 32 per cent whether it provides affordable new homes.
  • Older people were more likely (47 per cent) to value good design than younger people (33 per cent).
  • Younger people were more interested in the job opportunities the new building would offer (31 per cent vs. 19 per cent of older people).
  • Inner Londoners were more concerned than outer Londoners about the provision of affordable new homes (40 per cent vs. 27 per cent).

Working in a tall building:

61 per cent would be happy to work in a tall building. With 72 per cent of 16-24 years olds indicating they would be happy. 34 per cent of 45-64 year olds would not be happy together with 13 per cent of young people.

On the future of tall buildings in London:

37 per cent of Londoners would like fewer tall buildings built over the next 5 years than the last. 26 per cent would like to see more and 33 per cent feel the same number should be built. 30 per cent of men said they want to see more built than over the last 5 years and 28% of men say less.

Is enough done to control how many tall buildings are built in London?

Young Londoners and men were most likely to agree that enough is done (38 per cent across both groups). Inner Londoners and older people were most likely to disagree that enough is done (32 per cent and 47 per cent respectively).


Peter Murray, Chairman of NLA said: ‘I am pleased to see that more people these days are in favour of tall buildings than against - well designed towers in the right place can enhance the skyline.

‘Equally bad ones do the opposite. We must be vigilant. The quantity of buildings coming through the system is such that we need to make sure the right controls are in place, that is why we are calling for the Mayor to set up a London Skyline Commission to ensure that only best quality buildings get through the net.

Read the full survey results here.

Readers' comments (2)

  • Strange headline to go with. The poll shows a clear generational shift toward positive views of tall buildings, surely that is the most pertinent finding here?

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  • Yasmin Shariff

    It is not just about size it is about the way we want to live. Tall buildings in the UK fall into two main categories- developers cashing in or battery hen social housing. The antithesis - the post-war sub-urban model for a family unit developed to lure soldiers into utopian havens is no longer relevant. We increasingly live in single person households that need to be physically and socially inter connected. Spreading our infrastructure out over our countryside is not a sustainable option. Connectivity, density and public spaces that enable interaction is what matters. Failing to plan for our common future and the obsession with planners to keep under existing ridge heights is resulting in the worst kind of developments. There are good models we could develop including BEDZED so lets measure up in a more meaningful way!

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