London is Rising

London is about to change forever as an explosion of high rise towers hits the skyline. But is anyone aware of the extent to which the city is being reshaped?

Surely when the appearance of city is about to change dramatically you would at least expect the city’s government to have a vision, a plan of the future city, where citizens can see what is happening and have a say in it?

This doesn’t seem to be the case for the wave of new towers proposed for London. A survey by GL Hearn has found at least 236 tall buildings over 20 storeys are currently proposed, approved or under construction in London. This new trend for tall buildings will see 33 buildings between 40 – 49 storeys and 22 buildings of 50 storeys or more planned for London. 48 per cent of the 236 towers have been approved and 19 percent are already off the starting blocks and under construction. The guardian has recently published an interactive guide, showing the extend to which London’s skyline could change.

The best thing about these buildings is that under existing planning policy, developers must make a contribution to affordable housing, which can be spent at another location. This means that London boroughs readily give permission for these tall buildings. Many boroughs also lack the resource to argue for long with well-financed developers. But surely buildings of this size are not a matter for the borough, but the city of London, and the country as a whole? London needs a clearer more precise framework for developers to work from.

Peter Murray of New London Architecture has proposed a mayoral London Skyline Commission, in which experts would scrutinise the quality of new proposals and guide developers. This kind of effort is essential if the right policies for London are to be created.