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Londoners need more say on skyline, says Historic England

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Historic England has called on a coordinated London-wide approach to consultation on planning applications for tall buildings

The heritage watchdog yesterday released results of a YouGov poll showing that more than half of Londoners do not know how to make their voice heard on proposals for skyscrapers.

Historic England says wider involvement can help people become better informed about changes to the capital’s skyline.

Duncan Wilson, chief executive of Historic England, said: ‘It matters when tall buildings spring up in the wrong places, overshadowing our crescents and squares, our playgrounds and palaces, canals and cathedrals.

‘Londoners have shown that they want to have more of a say over how London’s future skyline is developed. The millions of people who live and work in the city need to be better informed and more involved in the changes that are gathering pace.’

Planning laws require councils to write to neighbours to consult them on planning applications, but they have discretion over how far they notify. Historic England would like to see a pan-London approach adopted through the London Plan.

‘Limits around who is consulted on tall building proposals need to be reviewed and a pan-London approach to skyline issues is needed,’ it said, remarking that normally only residents in the immediate surrounding areas are consulted on proposals for buildings that may affect views for miles around.

The YouGov poll found that 58 per cent of Londoners did not know how to respond to a planning application.

In addition, it found that 48 per cent think the 430 tall buildings planned for the capital will have a negative impact on the skyline, compared to 34 per cent who think they will have a positive impact.

Meanwhile, Historic England is backing new measures to protect the Thames from the ‘blight’ of tall buildings planned for its banks.

In the March edition of its publication Conservation Bulletin the heritage body criticises the London mayor’s planning policy for being ‘vague’ on the ‘designation of appropriate areas’ for new tall buildings.

The bulletin includes a piece by Graham Morrison, a partner at architect Allies & Morrison and a former English Heritage commissioner, in which he argues for a central section of the Thames to be listed.

Listing the Thames from Tower Bridge to Putney Bridge would allow Historic England to intervene in debates about tall buildings around the river, he writes. ‘A listing designation would elicit a wholly different status to the normal cautionary advice of its officers.’

A spokeswoman for Historic England say it would favour an area around the Thames being designated a ‘conservation area’ rather than being listed.

Proposed extra protection for the Thames would be part of a major public consultation exercise it was planning to launch after the mayoral election in May, she added.

Visualhouse and photographer Dan Lowe Proposed London skyline

Visualhouse and photographer Dan Lowe Proposed London skyline

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Readers' comments (2)

  • I wonder if 'listing the Thames from Tower Bridge to Putney Bridge' would have seen Historic England intervening in the debate about the Garden Bridge?
    It's surely not just on the skyline that Londoners deserve more say.

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  • Chris Rogers

    Given EH/HE's appalling record of back-tracking on tall building (and, yes, other debatable ideas), I'm not sure they have much to stick to now. That said the BBC of all bodies did a truly dreaful job of covering this story last night on their TV local news - it was only about half way thru that HE even got a mention. If even they can't get people involved, what chance a quango?

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