05:54

London towers (again)

I have been banging on about  the towers, mostly hideous and inappropriate, that have been sprouting along the banks of the Thames. The  beef is not towers per se, but the bankruptcy of the planning system that gives licence to developers with deep pockets and little aesthetic talent to pretty well do what they want, where they want, with little constraint or sense of a wider planned environment. They are able to do this by contributing crumbs to cash strapped councils' budgets either with 'affordable housing' or the occasional public utility - such as a tennis court. This was never a way to plan any city - let alone one of the most historic and important in the world. The politicians who have allowed this - stand up Boris and take a bow David and George - should hang their heads in shame. It's a dreadful legacy.

Londoners are only just beginning to wake up to what is happening to their city. In order to have a public discussion on subject of towers and the planning system, at Property Vision we tried to organise and sponsor a debate between those who share our concerns and the cheerleaders for the current system. Ranged up against the current trend were the columnist and former editor of the Times, Simon Jenkins and Will Self, the journalist and novelist. On the other side was...er....no one. We tried developers and architects, politicians and planning officers to no avail. Many of them were (surprisingly) on the side of Messrs Jenkins and Self and most (understandably) did not fancy evisceration by two such formidable intellects. But the depressing and inescapable conclusion is that the current policy (if it can be called that) is indefensible on any metric except the developer's profit.

With a bit of luck the current property market will impose its own brakes on some of the excesses coming down the line (with planning permission, but not yet built). But many are already out of the ground and will wreck the London skyline even if the political and planning gears get thrown into reverse in the near future - which is, sadly, unlikely.

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