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The Squire solution: build higher

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The ‘Squire storey’ is a valid option for increasing housing density in central London, says David Taylor

Here’s an idea: to encourage higher densities and enable more people to live in, say, Westminster, planners should allow applicants to add a storey to their buildings. This would promote sustainable acts of conversion, rather than demolish and rebuild, aid Westminster’s population growth projection from under 250,000 to 350,000 by 2016 and act as a tonic to those architects without a great deal in their forward programmes.

Any 20th century building should automatically be allowed another floor

This is not my idea, it’s Michael Squire’s, who has been involved in planning in the borough for more than 30 years, and has something like 50 ‘dots on the map’ to show for it as well as an impressive hit-rate of turning out high-quality schemes through ‘engagement and negotiation’.

Last week, he told a conference on the future of Westminster that any building completed, for example, after the beginning of the 20th century, ‘should just automatically be allowed another floor. It would be an encouragement to those who have existing buildings, which can be reused, but when they can’t be reused, let them be designed as boldly as they can’.

Many would echo Squire’s plea – Westminster is riddled with conservation areas and has a paucity of available sites for new residential, but has a ‘sparkling’ track record in consenting progressive architecture in the past decade. That is according to strategic director for the built environment, Rosemarie MacQueen, flicking her Power-Point between an Allford Hall Monaghan Morris city academy here, an Oxford Street diagonals (pictured above) there and, what she believes to be the epitome of its approach, Lord’s in St John’s Wood.

So, perhaps it is not completely out of the question that the ‘Squire storey’ might be discussed as an issue at City Hall, or that the borough’s former leader, Simon Milton, might consider it while wearing his Greater London Authority hat. After all, Mayor of London Boris Johnson has the headache of getting at least 33,400 residential units built across London every year. Let the debate commence.

  • David Taylor worked on the AJ between 1994 and 2003, including spells as news editor, deputy editor and acting editor

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Excellent idea....and just what they did in Berlin after reunification. This was often paired with a general update of buildings receiving the additional/remodelled floor.

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