We consider that the purported "consultation" by Westminster Council on its plans for "significantly taller" buildings should be withdrawn. The questions are not posed neutrally but framed to elicit a response in line with the Council's objectives. It is a one sided push for high rise buildings which does not have the support of the majority of Westminster residents and business occupants.
WE REQUEST THAT WESTMINSTER CITY COUNCIL, IN RECONSIDERING THE TERMS OF ITS CONSULTATION, BEAR IN MIND THE FOLLOWING ISSUES:
1/ We ask that Westminster City Council start a genuine Westminster and London wide consultation. There should be real dialogue between the people who live and work in Westminster and its environs (and who by their social and economic activity contribute to its ongoing success) and the City Council, the elected representatives of those people.
2/ We ask that Westminster City Council retain existing planning laws that respect the built environment. With regard to the height, scale and massing of buildings within the many Westminster Conservation Areas protection should be strengthened not relaxed. High rise at the centre of our historic capital city threatens to destroy the iconic beauty of central London not just for Westminster but also for neighbouring boroughs, and would be at the expense of our international reputation as a world class city.
3/ We think that the City Council should recognise that densification may well be appropriate only for a limited number of sites within Westminster's boundaries and that the Council should conduct a comprehensive investigation to identify potential locations for mid-rise buildings (5-6 storeys up to a maximum of 10-12). The default planning position should be that tall developments (out of scale with their surroundings) are NOT suitable unless part of an approved master-plan, and agreed with local communities.
4/ We request that the City Council acknowledge that there is limited evidence to back up the claim that economic growth goes hand in hand with increased density and/or height. 85% of businesses in Westminster employ less than 10 people and large scale developments are not the natural home of the small businesses that are the life blood of the central London economy.
5/ We would expect that the City Council prioritise environmental considerations. High rise buildings are expensive to heat, cool and service. They require very careful design and environmental management that is outside the scope of any but the most sophisticated design team and developer. They should be the exception and not the rule. Each one must be assessed on its own merits (to include an evaluation also of what is being replaced) and not be waved through as part of a carte blanche attitude to our built environment.
6/ We believe that the City Council should respect the amenities that current business and residents possess. Our quality of life should not be made worse by bulky overshadowing buildings, stealing light, creating canyon effects and causing more central London traffic congestion. Westminster should have its own height cap on buildings as do most historic cities; we do not want London to become Bangkok or Dubai.
In conclusion, we ask that Westminster City Council listen to the concerns of those who have signed this appeal. London is not merely a city of commerce but a city of history, culture and beauty which could easily be degraded if we accept the premise that to build the future necessarily means building big at a cost to our heritage buildings and public spaces. To sacrifice our skylines and our sight lines in the mistaken belief that we cannot do otherwise would be an enormous failure of responsibility as much as vision, and future generations would be right to blame us for not defending the long term benefit of the many whilst permitting the short term profit of the few.
Wendy Shillam Chair FitzWest Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum
Lucy Peck, The Thorney Island Society
Sue Ball, Westminster Cathedral Area Residents Group
Peter Roberts, Westminster Cathedral Area Residents Group
Sara Oliver, member of Belgravia Society
Covent Garden Community Association
Colin Bascom on behalf of The Fitzrovia Trust Ltd
Wilfried Rimensberger, London Tenant Federation
C N G Dawes Esq OBE
Hero Granger-Taylor, Camden Civic Society
Richard Simpson FSA
Barbara Weiss Skyline Campaign
Ibrahim Dogus Labour Candidate, for Cities of London and Westminster
Bridget Fox, Liberal Democrat Candidate, Cities of London & Westminster
Lawrence McNally, Green Party Candidate, Cities of London & Westminster
Tim Lord, Independent Candidate for Cities of London and Westminster
Councillor Paul Dimoldenberg
Councillor Rita Begum
Pancho Lewis, West End Labour
The Rector, St Anne's Church, Soho
Professor Nick Bailey, University of Westminster
Dr J M Robinson
Mrs Catherine Slater
Miss Jennifer Sheridan
Angela Joy Harvey
Kajsa Roberts, Mrs
Dr Janet Lewis
Dr Claire Barratt
Mr Tim Forrest
Matthew Lonsdale JP
Tom Ball, Architect Planner and Urban Designer
Cllr Rita Begum