Are tall buildings necessary for London to remain a competitive world city?
On February 10, 2004 mayor of London Ken Livingstone introduced the London Plan, the first proactive strategy in over thirty years to deal specifically with the planning and development of London. Since an increase in London's population by 800,000 is expected by the year 2020 , the mayor has suggested the construction of high-rise buildings as the method most likely to enable London to grow in a controlled and steady manner and maintain its status as a world city. A key part of the plan, the mayor's proposal for high-density towers throughout the city, has heightened the debate between urban planners and heritage groups as to whether the construction of tall office and housing complexes is necessary and/or appropriate for London. Based on recent documents, articles and essays and London's need to remain competitive with New York and Tokyo as a world class city, the construction of tall buildings in London is a necessity, especially due to certain factors such as the need to preserve historic views, the lack of available space and London's poor transport system.
The ongoing debate over whether tall buildings would best serve London and sustain and enhance its status as a world-class city has dominated the political and metropolitan structural-design arenas during the last ten years. On one side are heritage groups and conservationists claiming that an increase in the number of tall buildings would block strategic views of London's historically significant landmarks. For example, the organization English Heritage has stated that the tall buildings are a cultural issue and their role is first and foremost of image and aesthetics rather than economic, and that proposed towers such as the 43-story Heron building on Bishopsgate would block views of St. Paul's cathedral . Claims such as these have held together London's existing developmental plan, the Views Policy, which is for the large part unorganized and reactive; the plan dictates where tall buildings should not be placed rather than where they could best be placed, which has resulted in London's fragmented and uneven skyline . Thus far, the plan has served these groups well and they have effectively prevented the construction of tall buildings that could potentially obstruct views of London landmarks.
In place of tall, high-density towers, suggestions have been made by some heritage groups for the construction of a greater number of smaller and more compact high-density buildings. Even though smaller buildings would help to preserve the views of London's major landmarks, they would not be built in the best interest of the city. Since there is a lack of available land in the city and low rise, high-density complexes require more land than tall, high-density towers, the only way to construct these developments would be to expand outward. An outward expansion would not only be expensive, requiring a development...