Appropriate locations for tall buildings

MQT on 2016-07-20
Session date: 
July 20, 2016
Question By: 
Nicky Gavron
Labour Group
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


We welcome the fact that you have stated "a relaxing of the London Plan has seen the growth in tall buildings receiving planning permission across the whole of London, even in areas with no current tall buildings".  Do you therefore agree that there needs to be a review of the current policy 7.7 on tall buildings in the London Plan?



Answer for Appropriate locations for tall buildings

Answer for Appropriate locations for tall buildings

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  Thank you very much, Assembly Member Gavron, for your question.  I agree that the tall buildings policy should be included in my review of the London Plan.


As a general principle, I am not against tall buildings as such.  However, their size and form means that their impact must be tested particularly rigorously through the planning process.  The previous Mayor’s approach to that was too passive.  Future specifications for them must be adequate to address Londoners’ concerns.  It is especially important that they respect the character of local neighbourhoods.  That means taking careful account of the way they relate to surrounding activities at ground-floor level as well as issues posed by their height.  These include their effect on local daylight, wind turbulence, glare and noise and their impact on the grain of the local area including local heritage assets.  Account must also be taken of their wider impact on local and strategic views.


Developers need to think not just about addressing the negative impacts of tall buildings but also about the ways in which they can make a positive contribution to the broader skyline and the definition of places like town centres.  They should be actively used to contribute to local communities and, of course, help meet London’s housing needs.  That is why for those tall buildings that are residential and in use I am exploring ways to discourage new homes being left empty and why I want to see developments making the maximum reasonable contribution to affordable housing.


Nicky Gavron AM:  That is very welcome.  Thank you for that response.  We agree that there is a place for tall buildings, but it has to be the right place and they have to make a positive contribution.


You have acknowledged that under your predecessor the interpretation of the planning rules and planning policies that we have was very piecemeal and the implementation was patchy.  We have just had recent research that says that there are now 436 towers over 20 storeys either being built or in the pipeline, that 40% of those are between 30 and 80 storeys and that a third of them are in outer London.


Therefore, would you consider that there is a case for a much clearer framework on where tall buildings should be located and their height in different contexts and - for the point you made - that they should make a positive contribution?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  To be fair to the previous Mayor, the Mayor before him [Ken Livingstone] also did things wrong in this area and so we should not criticise just the previous Mayor in relation to tall buildings.  The new London Plan needs to look into the issue of tall buildings.


Nicky Gavron AM:  Good.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The figures that I have had in relation to the GLA’s own data say that between 2000 and 2015, which is why I mentioned the previous-previous Mayor, planning permission was granted for approximately 800 proposals that included a tall building.  The majority of those buildings were 15 storeys or fewer and 70% were buildings of 20 storeys or fewer.  Of these, only 247 were completed and nearly 18% of the completions included tall buildings of 20 storeys or more.  That is why we want to have an all-encompassing look at this, which is what the London Plan intends to do.


Nicky Gavron AM:  Sure.  What I have just quoted to you is the most recent report of those figures and, notwithstanding what you have just said, are being built or are in the pipeline.  I wanted to move on because I was very involved in the original planning policies, which I now think ‑‑


Tony Arbour AM (Chairman):  Why not phrase it as a question?  “Are you aware that I was very much involved?”  You are not asking a question, Assembly Member Gavron.


Nicky Gavron AM:  He has just given me the answer to one question and I am just about to ask another question.  The policies that we now have, the current policies, were designed for commercial and mixed-use and not for residential.  Three-quarters of 80% of those coming forward are residential and they are speculative, not very high quality and are very environmentally unfriendly.  In terms of what you were saying about your housing targets, they are very expensive to build, expensive to manage and expensive to live in and they are often not lived in.  They are out of the reach of 99% of Londoners and they count as part of your housing target.


I just want to probe you a bit on this and to look at other options because we know that mid‑rise, with its lower costs, can actually help us to have more affordable housing.  Would you be prepared to consider alternative options to high‑rise that meet good density levels and also meet your other London Plan objectives when you review the tall buildings policy?


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The short answer is yes.


Nicky Gavron AM:  Great.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  The middle answer is that you are right to remind us that we can get good-quality, high-density homes that are not skyscrapers.  I am not against tall buildings per se.


Nicky Gavron AM:  Of course not.


Sadiq Khan (Mayor of London):  It is all about scale, place and proportion.  Also, do not forget that lots of good tall buildings provide important and much-needed office space and business space as well.


Nicky Gavron AM:  Good.  Thank you.