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London Assembly members unanimously back Skyline call

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Leading London politicians have unanimously called on Boris Johnson to introduce a new tall buildings regime echoing that envisaged in AJ’s Skyline campaign

London Assembly members gave their full endorsement to a motion from architect and fellow member Navin Shah urging the mayor to adopt a package of measures to better manage the future development of tall buildings in the capital.

Shah argued that London Plan policies on tall buildings were ‘not being properly implemented in planning decisions’ and urged Johnson to ‘rethink his approach’.

His motion ‘notes with concern’ New London Architecture research earlier this year identifying 230 tall buildings in the development pipeline for the capital.

It continues: ‘The cumulative impact of these developments on London’s skyline is not being thoroughly considered, with the resultant often bland design and irreversible negative impact posing a threat to London’s heritage, character and architectural distinctiveness.’

All 24 assembly members present at today’s (November 5) plenary session voted in favour of the motion, and Johnson will be asked to respond to its demands.

In particular, he is asked to:

  • Establish a ‘Skyline commission’ of design experts from a variety of fields to offer advice on commissioning, play an enabling role and carry out design reviews;
  • Develop more detailed and rigorous masterplanning processes, including engagement of local residents and stakeholders, especially within Opportunity Areas, and implement a clusters policy;
  • Undertake a review of existing protected views with the intention of adding new viewing corridors, as well as a recognition that views from all angles – even if not within a protected corridor - should be a planning consideration;
  • Support the development of a fully interactive 3D computer model of London’s emerging skyline in order to allow development proposals to be visualised within the context of their contribution to the capital’s skyline; and
  • Require all developers with proposals for tall buildings to consider other building configurations.

The requests bear strong similarities to those of AJ’s Skyline campaign, which was launched earlier this year in conjunction with the Observer newspaper.

In a formal response last month, Johnson rejected all but one of its recommendations – even though he subsequently made a show of ‘intervening’ over uncoordinated development of tall buildings at South Quay in of east London (see AJ 06.10.14).

Assembly member Andrew Dismore tabled a separate motion against the government’s proposals to make temporary rules on the conversion of offices into homes a permanent fixture of the English planning system.

The call said Johnson had ‘not gone far enough’ in opposing measures that would damage London’s economy by reducing the amount of space available to businesses. It was backed by 16 votes to eight.

Johnson is expected to reply to both motions, but has no time limit for doing so.

Full text of the motions

Navin Shah:

This assembly notes with concern the revelation earlier this year by New London Architecture that over 230 tall buildings are in the pipeline for development. The cumulative impact of these developments on London’s skyline is not being thoroughly considered, with the resultant often bland design and irreversible negative impact posing a threat to London’s heritage, character and architectural distinctiveness.

80% of these buildings are residential, mostly luxury flats which will do little to alleviate the housing crisis.

Tall buildings can make a positive contribution to city life and the skyline, but only if they’re in the right places, meet the right needs, and respect the character and identity of the surrounding area.

However, the flaws of ill-considered tall buildings have been well demonstrated by the Skyline campaign.

The London Plan includes policies on tall buildings, but these are not being properly implemented in planning decisions. There are also examples where height limits established by Opportunity Area Planning Frameworks have been ignored.

This assembly therefore calls on the mayor to rethink his approach to tall buildings in London. To protect London’s skyline and arrive at well considered appropriate high rise buildings the mayor should establish a ‘skyline commission’ made up of design experts from a variety of fields to offer advice on commissioning, have an enabling role and carry out design reviews.

The mayor should also develop more detailed and rigorous masterplanning processes, including engagement of local residents and stakeholders, especially within Opportunity Areas, and implement a clusters policy.

There should be a review of existing protected views with the intention of adding new viewing corridors, as well as a recognition that views from all angles – even if not within a protected corridor - should be a planning consideration.

The GLA should support the development of a fully interactive 3D computer model of London’s emerging skyline in order to allow development proposals to be visualised within the context of their contribution to the London skyline.

Finally, the Mayor should require all developers with proposals for tall buildings to consider other building configurations.

Andrew Dismore

This assembly notes the mayor’s representations to the government in response to their consultation on permitted development rights. This assembly believes that the mayor did not go far enough and failed to fulfil his pledge at September Mayors Question Time that ‘Thermonuclear weapons will be used’.

This assembly believes permitted development rights that enable offices to be converted to flats without the need to apply for planning permission should not be made permanent. Bringing in permitted development on office space and other employment uses, such as light industry and warehouses, represents a threat to London’s economic recovery.

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