London mayor Sadiq Khan has made his clearest statement yet about his emerging policy on tall buildings, saying that any new high-rise scheme must be subject to the ’highest scrutiny’
Unveiling his Good Growth by Design plans at the London School of Economics yesterday (10 July), he said he would not simply approve every skyscraper that landed on his desk.
‘I will take a more discerning approach to tall buildings,’ he said. ‘I’m not against more… but every design must be judged on its merits. As the mayor, I am the guardian of the skyline on the public’s behalf.
’Any proposed scheme that dramatically changes the skyline should expect the highest scrutiny and adhere to the most exacting standards, [and] while I’m mayor the answer on tall buildings won’t always be yes.’
He added: ‘[In recent years] there has been too much focus on high-price high rises. We will support high density in the right areas, but not at any cost.’
Khan announced his Good Growth plan as he named his new mayoral design advocates (MDAs) – a panel of 50 architects and design experts who will provide guidance to City Hall and London councils.
The mayor said that he wanted the plan and his advocates to promote more inclusive, balanced development in the capital
‘I’m acutely aware that for all London’s greatness, we can always learn from past mistakes,’ he said. ‘We don’t want a race to the bottom like the Victorian industrial revolution slums, or the suburban sprawl of the early 1900s or the monoculture of post-war estates.
‘At the same time, there have been more and more vanity projects passing as infrastructure. Some projects are more about their nicknames than how they elegantly fit into their surroundings.
‘I want a change of approach. I want good growth – not supporting growth at any cost. I want a rebalance towards affordability and a socially integrated city with world-class public realm.’
Quoting Jane Jacobs, he cited a model for how he wanted London to evolve: ‘[Lively], diverse, intense cities contain the seeds of their own regeneration, with energy enough to carry over for problems and needs outside themselves.’
He said good examples of successful development were Meridian Water in Enfield and Thamesmead in south-east London. Khan announced that a new plan for London later this year with good growth as a guiding principle would combine with a more balanced approach.
The mayor spelt out that he would be rigorous in enforcing his demands for 35 per cent affordable housing on all new developments – a level he eventually wanted to raise to 50 per cent.
He said he would also be tougher on developers’ viability statements and their justification for lowering the number of affordable homes on sites. ‘[On that] I would say buyer beware,’ he said. ‘[Developers who purchase land knowing the levels we demand] should not come back and say they aren’t viable. We will come back and say hard luck.’
Khan also said that he wanted more diversity in the design teams commissioned to work around the capital to reflect the diverse communities they were building for.
As part of this drive, he hinted at changes to the procurement process.
He said: ‘With the big firms [on tenders] I will want to know who you employ [in terms of BAME] and whether you can partner up with a young practice.’
Hellman Sadiq London mayor