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Skyline Campaign welcomes Khan’s London plan for tall buildings

London skyline
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Skyline Campaign co-founder Barbara Weiss has welcomed the Mayor of London’s latest proposals on tall buildings

Sadiq Khan has published a draft of his vision for the capital, A City For All Londoners, which is currently out for consultation ahead of its implementation in 2017.

In the plan, Khan pledged that tall buildings would not be granted planning permission, unless they ‘add value to the existing community’ and that they need to be able to provide affordable housing and workspace ‘where appropriate’.

Khan does, however, added that tall buildings ‘play a role in the future of London’.

‘Higher density does not necessarily mean high rise; greater densities can be achieved through a range of designs, including mid-rise buildings where appropriate,’ he wrote.

He added: ‘Tall buildings will only be permitted if they can add value to the existing community – in line with the principles of ”good growth”.

‘That means they must make a positive contribution to the streetscape and skyline and that careful account must be taken of the way the building relates to activities at ground floor level, as well as the effect they have on local daylight, wind turbulence, glare and noise.’

Responding to Khan’s proposals, architect Barbara Weiss, who co-founded the Skyline Campaign launched by the AJ and The Observer in 2014, said Khan had recognised the public dissent surrounding high-rise buildings.

She said: ‘He [Khan] and a lot of other people have woken up to the fact that tall buildings are very unpopular and they cause almost as many problems as they solve – or more problems than they solve.

‘They certainly don’t contribute to resolving the housing crisis. The value of them is really only a financial. He is encouraging developers to find alternatives.’

Weiss added that Khan was now facing the consequences of former London mayor Boris Johnson, who some have argued was too liberal in his granting of planning permissions for tall buildings.

According to New London Architecture, as of March 2016 there were 436 towers over 20 storeys either being built or in the pipeline, and 40 per cent of those were between 30 and 80 storeys. A third of these buildings were also in outer London.

Weiss said: ‘He [Khan] has really taken on board the enormity of what’s happened. While he’s not closing any doors completely – and nor are we – he’s saying there is a place for some tall buildings, but only in the right circumstances and only if they really do make a positive contribution.’

Khan had previously indicated his position on tall buildings – saying he would subject them to a more stringent planning process than his predecessor – at the Mayor’s Question Time back in July.

Questioned by Nicky Gavron, Labour spokesperson for housing and planning on the London Assembly, Khan said that the ‘size and form’ of tall buildings meant their impact must be tested ‘particularly rigorously through the planning process’ and criticised the previous mayor’s approach as being ‘too passive’.

Khan also said he would consider alternative options to high-rise buildings that meet the required density levels.

Speaking to the AJ on Khan’s new London plan, Gavron said: ’He [Khan] clearly sees a role for tall buildings but it’s very welcome that he is giving careful consideration to tall buildings and to their role.

’However, he doesn’t see high-rise as necessarily providing high-density […] It’s a reiteration to what he said in July, but he does see densities can be achieved by different kinds of design for residential and by mid-rise.’

In addition, Gavron said she was looking forward to seeing Khan’s vision ‘fleshed out’ in deputy mayor James Murray’s supplementary planning guidance on housing and in City Hall’s environment strategy. 


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Readers' comments (1)

  • The London Skyline continues to change profile and the close proximity of the high-rise buildings creates major problems in the event of a fire incident. Congested traffic makes it difficult for fire fighters to get to the location. Fighting a fire externally becomes a mammoth task. It is, therefore, imperative that the internal emergency equipment operates efficiently. It is essential to protect the security of the electrical supply and to ensure that it is fit for purpose.

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