There is no vision for London’s skyline

Author: Cyril Richert

Where is the vision for London’s skyline is wondering Simon Jenkins in his article in the Evening Standard on April 30th?

First, Simon Jenkins is right to remember the broken promise of Boris Johnson at at time when was running for Mayor of London in 2008. In November 2008 it was actually one of our first article on this website: Mr Johnson had warned he will not approve skyscrapers if residents are opposed to them, confirmed he will redraw the planned skyline as a matter of priority and called Ken Livingston’s plans’ “phallocratic towers”.

His U-turn will be his legacy to London. You can vote him out, but a long time after he’s left you will still see the Walkie Talkie, the Helter Skelter, the Razor (the Strata tower, named ugliest building of the year in 2010) or the Cheesegrater in the sky of London!

Simon Jenkins wrote:

“Johnson wants towers everywhere. He wants them looming over Victoria, Euston and Waterloo. He wants them over North Kensington, Brentford and Battersea. Above all, he wants them along the banks of the Thames, not so much a row of pepper-pots as an entire table-top of condiments. […]

Though the Mayor is supposedly responsible for high buildings, he appears to have allowed the planning ministers, Eric Pickles and Nick Boles, to upstage him. The developments have been pushed through after lobbying by the developers, on the grounds that Lambeth councillors are in favour. These poverty-stricken south London councils are approving everything that comes their way as a result of so-called “section 106” deals.

These deals involve developers offering token numbers of “affordable homes” in their towers or, more usually, giving the councils cash to spend elsewhere. Southwark has garnered £70?million in such payments for allowing unlimited towers further downstream. Because the Government will not pay for social housing in the normal way, it encourages such bribes to distort normal planning considerations. […]

In most great world cities there is someone in an office somewhere — such as a planner employed by the Mayor — who has a vision for the city skyline that he can share with the world. It embraces how renewal should take place and where, what views should be guarded, where highly visible structures should go and not go. On that basis people can debate, argue and forge a compromise.

In London there is no such person and no such vision. The Mayor has none. “

Although the section 106 has mostly been replaced by the CIL (Community Infrastructure Levy, read at the bottom HERE), the purpose is similar.

You can read our article: Section 106 dictating our landscape

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