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London mayor ‘needs new powers to make buildings bomb-proof’

City Hall

The capital’s next mayor should be empowered to demand that particular new buildings are constructed in a way that maximises their security from terror attacks, a senior aide to Boris Johnson has said

However the comments have drawn concern from architects, who argue that fortified buildings are not the solution to the threat of extremism.

London’s deputy mayor for policing and crime, Stephen Greenhalgh, said power to demand a higher level of security for some new public buildings and spaces should be devolved to the capial’s mayor.

Writing in the Evening Standard, Greenhalgh said suspected terrorists were being arrested ‘at the alarming rate of one a day’, and that London’s mayor needed to be able to exercise greater control over the security of what was built in the capital. 

‘The mayor already holds the planning powers for major developments and is responsible for improving London’s public transport network,’ he said.

‘He also needs the power to bring in experts to advise on the security of new developments and the ability to co-ordinate plans to better withstand terror attacks.’

Greenhalgh singled out the Herzog & de Meuron-penned plans to expand Chelsea FC’s stadium as a situation in which the new mayoral powers could be used - seemingly suggesting that its security measures left room for improvement.

He said: ’Chelsea FC plan to build a new 60,000-seater stadium on their Stamford Bridge site in the heart of Fulham, increasing capacity by nearly 50 per cent. 

’A good design could make this new stadium considerably safer.’

Greenhalgh said his architecture-related proposals were part of a wider need to devolve responsibility for tackling extremism to the London Mayor.

However, past president of RIBA Angela Brady warned that seeking to make all new buildings blast-resistant would be the wrong approach.

’Good urban design can to some extent protect certain open public spaces and the people using them, but the cost of trying to protect buildings by making them bomb proof is difficult and expensive and maybe futile as there are so many,’ she said. ‘Where would one begin and end?

‘Building on awareness is probably better, as a safe city is one that is enjoyed by all without an obvious over-protected built environment.’

Architect Barbara Weiss agreed, but accepted that future London mayors should have an overall vision for the capital’s built environment that included public protection.

‘Safety and the sense of safety are essential in a city of the scale and population size of London, to allow people not only to use it, but also to enjoy it,’ she said.

‘In these traumatic days of increased terrorist attacks, it is inevitable that everyone feels vulnerable, particularly in very busy places. 

‘While politicians must attack the fundamental roots of the problems, safety by design must also be considered, but not to the point that we end up living in a fortified city that denies the joy of urban living.’

The AJ asked Herzog & de Meuron for its response to Greenhalgh’s comments. It referred the request to its client.

The club declined to comment.

Herzog and de Meuron's proposals for Chelsea FC

Herzog and de Meuron’s proposals for Chelsea FC



Readers' comments (4)

  • Just what we need - build fear into the fabric of our cities. We've never given into our fear during past, much worse conflicts, so why now?

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  • Peter we built castles and city walls in the past.....
    Perhaps some consideration in possible target areas would be sensible.

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  • Is this a higher priority than introducing legislation to render this country Boris-proof, before it becomes a joke democracy?

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  • Michael - it was the castles and city walls which were the targets of such attacks, you therefore make an area into a target by building in this manner - It is 'terror' that fires the bellies of such extremists and by building because of fear displays a weakness in our society which provides more fuel to their fire. It is the intangible approach to 'building in counter terrorism' within the public realm that should be taken more seriously.

    Terrorism has changed. The recent trends seem to show a movement away from 'the bomb' used by the IRA and Al Qaeda suicide bombers and more towards extremist factions, lone gunmen and back-pack bombs (who then run away from the scene) for example Brussels and Paris (which we can easily relate to London). However it is the public realm where this needs to be tackled, with an attitude that shows, 'you will be caught', if not before then after. The public realm can be designed in such a way that makes these people think twice and also creates a safety lag and protection to the public.

    I admit you cannot prevent someone with a gun walking around shooting people without creating 'the wall'. A wall which then negatively impacts our everyday lives of the general public and portrays an area as a possible target to everyone. It is a decision that has both its positives and its negatives but personally creating a target by building 'forts' and 'walls' for the extremist to want to knock down is not the answer.

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