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Watchdogs warm to tall buildings

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CABE and English Heritage (EH) have announced a shift in policy that means 'the principle of a tall building may be acceptable at outline planning consent'.

The change in policy, which will only be sanctioned 'in exceptional circumstances as part of a robust and credible long-term masterplan', was announced in the organisations' new Guidance on Tall Buildings document.

The paper, released yesterday (26 July), follows January's consultation period, in which feedback was sought on the organisations' 2003 proposal document.

In a statement, the watchdogs said the new guidance 'updates and strengthens the robust document already valued by planners, developers, architects and local authorities in evaluating tall buildings in the planning process'.

The new guidance will be used as 'a material consideration' in the determination of planning applications.

Although the shift in tall-building planning consent is a big step for CABE and EH, senior design review advisor Lucy Carmichael said it would only be used in exceptional circumstances.

'It would only apply to large-scale regeneration projects and masterplans taking place over a long period of time, such as King's Cross and the Olympics site in east London'.

The new document also advocates that tall buildings 'set exemplary standards in sustainable design and construction'. And, for the first time, CABE and EH have asked that tall-building schemes 'exceed the latest regulations for minimising energy and reducing carbon emissions over the lifetime of the development'.

World Heritage Site protection is also clarified, with the document calling for an 'obligation for World Heritage Sites to have management plans, which will ideally include a policy framework to define and protect the local setting. Tall buildings must address their effect on World Heritage Sites as part of the wider historic context'.

CABE chief executive Richard Simmons said: 'By their nature tall buildings have an impact on their context that is far wider than most other types of building, and so it is essential that they are planned well, designed well and meet the highest standards in terms of sustainability.'

by Max Thompson

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