Welcome to Skyline, a joint AJ and Observer campaign demanding better tall buildings for London
Over 200 tall buildings, from 20 storeys to much greater heights, are currently consented or proposed. Many of them are hugely prominent and grossly insensitive to their immediate context and appearance on the skyline.
This fundamental transformation is taking place with a shocking lack of public awareness, consultation or debate. Planning and political systems are proving inadequate to protect the valued qualities of London, or to provide a coherent and positive vision for the future skyline.
The official policy is that tall buildings should be ‘well designed and in the right place’, yet implementation of policy is fragmented and weak.
Too many of these towers are of mediocre architectural quality and badly sited. Many show little consideration for scale and setting, make minimal contribution to public realm or street-level experience, and are designed without concern for their cumulative effect and impact. Their generic designs, typical of fast-growing cities around the world, threaten London’s unique character and identity.
Most of the proposed towers are not vital to London’s prosperity and financial well-being. The majority are residential, but they are neither essential to meeting housing needs, nor the best way to achieve greater densities. Their purpose is more to create investments than homes or cohesive communities. They have the potential to cause permanent damage to the city’s urban fabric and to its global image and reputation.
This damage can be stopped. Existing powers allow local, city and national government to refuse tall buildings of poor quality and in inappropriate locations, and these powers must be used more rigorously.
London, one of the great cities of the world, deserves better. We are not opposed to building high, but believe that the most visible buildings in the city require the greatest care in their siting, individual design and aggregate impact. Those with power and responsibility – the communities secretary and his ministers, the mayor and the boroughs – must wake up to the risk of irreversible harm that London is facing, and take effective action.
- We support the idea of a mayoral Skyline Commission, to review and enable well-designed development
- We call for a more structured, defined and considered policy for tall buildings, with transparency for the public and clarity for developers
- We believe that London needs a city-wide discussion of these vital issues