Mayor of London urged to stop forcing councils to make developments higher

Release Date: 06 July 2017

The retiring Leader of Richmond Council has urged the Mayor of London to ask GLA planners to stop intervening to push higher-rise developments and overturning local planning authorities’ decisions that seek to cap the height of buildings.

In his final act as Leader of the Council, Lord True wrote to Sadiq Khan about proposed future high-rise developments in London, referring to understandable national concern about the suitability and safety of high-rise developments. 

To protect and respect the distinctive heritage and special character of the borough, Richmond Council has always had very strict planning policies on new high-rise buildings. In the context of Richmond borough, a ‘tall’ building is defined as one of 18 metres in height or higher (or six storeys and above), and new ‘tall’ buildings would only be considered acceptable close to Richmond and Twickenham train stations.

In addition, the policies define ‘taller’ buildings as those significantly taller than neighbouring buildings but less than 18 metres (below six storeys) in height. Thus new ones are only potentially appropriate in the centres of Richmond and Twickenham. Elsewhere in the borough, with the exception of very few places where there are already existing taller buildings, higher rise developments are considered to be inappropriate and out of character. 

However, despite the local planning policies, this doesn’t mean taller buildings cannot be built. Developers can appeal local planning decisions that cap how high they can build. In many instances, the Mayor of London’s GLA planning team agrees with developers’ requests to build high rise to build more homes. GLA planners and the Mayor often intervene in local democratic decision making process by overturning local planning decisions.

Lord True disagrees with this approach, believing decisions should be local, and urges Mr Khan to reassure Londoners by imposing a moratorium on demands by his planners for more high rise. He urged the Mayor to look at more creative and sustainable ways for place-making and to build more appropriate and safe homes by utilising low and mid-rise architectural solutions.

He said:  

Following the tragic fire at Grenfell House, many people are afraid and concerned about the safety of high-rise developments. 

 “In Richmond, we believe that high rise buildings are unsuitable accommodation and refute the belief that the only answer to achieve new housing and increase densities in London is to build up.  By thinking more creatively and considering different design solutions, safe community and social housing can be achieved on a more human level. 

“Therefore, I urge Mr Khan to issue an immediate direction to his planners never to intervene in local Borough planning decisions to seek to impose higher-rise levels than determined appropriate locally. There are other ways to achieve higher residential densities and the homes we need without recourse to pushing more people into high rise. 

“London does need more housing. But I just don’t believe that the only answer is up.”

Notes for editors

If you are a journalist and would like further information about this press release, contact Elinor Firth on 020 8487 5159.

Reference: P319/17

Updated: 31 July 2017