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Boris urged to reconsider Skyline campaign stance

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Mayor of London Boris Johnson is being asked to reconsider his rejection of key elements of AJ’s Skyline campaign by key London Assembly members

Architect Navin Shah, a Labour assembly member, argues that London Plan policies on tall buildings are ‘not being properly implemented in planning decisions’ and is calling on Johnson to ‘rethink his approach’.

AJ launched its Skyline campaign earlier this year together with the Observer newspaper. It comprises a five-point plan aimed at stopping a glut of poorly-designed tower blocks ruining the capital’s skyline.

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).

Shah’s motion, which goes before the London Assembly tomorrow, is set to be seconded by fellow assembly member Nicky Gavron, Labour’s chair of the assembly’s planning committee.

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

The motion 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.’

Shah’s motion calls on Johnson 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.

Full text of the motion

The following motion has been proposed in the name of Navin Shah AM and will be seconded by Nicky Gavron AM

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.

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