London’s planning policy is failing and many new and proposed towers are little more than ‘deposit boxes’ for ‘dirty Russian money’, Peter Rees has claimed
The former City of London planning officer told BBC TV that London was becoming a victim of ‘…homogenised international architecture that is out of scale with its surroundings, damaging the London skyline and giving a very bad impression to people who visit London.’
Rees added: ‘And for what purpose? Simply to provide piles of safe deposit boxes for international investors.’
Rees, who has thrown his weight behind the AJ’s Skyline campaign, said: ‘People are buying for financial security; they are furnishing them, locking the door and maybe they come for and have a vacation for a couple of weeks a year. The rest of the time they do not even rent them out; they will be empty.
‘There will be no people; there will be no community; all that is missing is the tumbleweed blowing between the buildings.’
He praised the estate’s low-rise, seven to eight-floor massing and its green spaces and added that there was ‘no reason at all why it could not be replicated’.
‘Only the mayor, with the strategic plan, can say “that isn’t appropriate in that location. Let’s set a height limit”,’ Rees added.
Asked if reining in developers would adversely affect London’s growth, Rees replied: ‘London house prices [will] cool and people will be able to afford to buy a home; it’s a win-win situation.
Released from the constraints of office, Rees, who is now professor of places and city planning at the Bartlett, spoke candidly about what he perceived as the questionable origins of much of the money pouring into London schemes. He said: ‘We are getting dirty Russian money being laundered and Chinese gambling [money].
‘The Chinese pay 10 per cent off-plan in Honk Kong and take out a futures contract on the apartment reaching a certain price by certain date. So it’s a combination of a casino and a laundry,’ said Rees.
Boris Johnson said it was up to local councils to deal with the problem of empty developments. He said: ‘I want to see councils use their powers to impose punitive council taxes for those that buy flats and leave them empty. We are providing for everybody in London and trying to cope with a shortfall that goes back 30 years.’