Corporation of London policy chief Judith Mayhew has launched a thinly-veiled attack on English Heritage in light of its opposition to the public inquiry-bound Heron Tower proposal, and branded tall buildings 'crucial' to the City's future.
And she revealed that the City will be staging yet another 'very-high-level' conference on the topic to set out 'the economic case' for skyscrapers later this summer.
Mayhew, chairman of the Corporation's policy and resources committee, told the AJ last week: 'I think we need accountability and transparency in all decisions, particularly in the light of the Human Rights Act - so many applicants spend so much time, money and effort prior to lodging applications, as far as is reasonable they should be heard in a transparent and fair way in accordance with national principles. It certainly doesn't help when we don't have dialogue before decisions are made.'
The words will be seen as an attack on English Heritage, which was integral in getting the KPFdesigned tower called in by environment boss John Prescott because of its threats to views. Ironically Prescott's last-minute move came in the same week that he was putting together an argument to say that he does have those powers to call in projects for inquiry, after a legal challenge on the matter.
But Mayhew said she was confident that the 'beautiful' tower's backers would fight the scheme at inquiry, adding that she had used MIPIM to reassure chairmen and chief executives of potential investors for large-scale buildings that the City is not being tied up by heritage red tape.
'We are going to have a group of tall towers and it's just a question of when, 'Mayhew told developers last week. 'We are going to go for it.'
Demands for buildings of more than 100,000m 2have seen 'a substantial increase' - the norm two or three years ago was for buildings of between 25,000m 2and 50,000m 2.Now the Corporation wants to see a cluster of tall buildings in the central district around Tower 42 outside the sight lines of St Paul's Cathedral. 'We need to put that economic case in the public arena and have a proper debate about the future of the City in terms of services and its buildings, ' said Mayhew.
The conference, which the Corporation has not yet started planning, will most likely be in the Guildhall in late summer and be open to the public, financiers, economists, architects, developers, owners and occupiers, with 'best-in-their-field' speakers plucked from around the globe. The Corporation is also hoping to work with the RIBA, the Architecture Foundation and the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment on the conference.
'Tall buildings and higher densities will be crucial to the future, not just of the city but of London, ' said Mayhew. We need to accommodate the big financial players who want to be in London and we can't afford for investment in the City to be halted.'