Tall Towers

de Feature Editor Stuart Blakley, a Chartered Town Planner, on planning and tall towers.

There are a number of planning matters associated with the development of tall towers in London. Applications for such buildings will need to satisfy the policies of the 2011 London Plan as they are likely to be referable to the Mayor. The criteria in the London Plan against which tall towers will be assessed are that they should:

  • Generally be in the Central Activity Zone.
  • Possess a scale, mass and bulk which don’t adversely affect the surrounding area’s character.
  • Positively relate to neighbouring buildings as well as the urban grain and public realm, especially at ground level.
  • Improve the legibility of an area and enhance its skyline.
  • Achieve the highest standards of sustainable design and construction.
  • Contribute to permeability of the site and wider area.
  • If possible incorporate publicly accessible top floors.

The London Plan identifies viewing corridors. These are protected vistas framing strategically important landmarks and include both the viewing corridors themselves plus wider setting consultation areas. The Plan also identifies and protects aspects of views which contribute to World Heritage Sites. The capital’s four World Heritage Sites are the Tower of London; Westminster Abbey, Palace and St Margaret’s Church; Maritime Greenwich; and Kew Royal Botanic Gardens.

Chris Brett, Partner at leading planning and design consultancy Barton Willmore, says, “In thriving cities like London, tall towers work. They allow many thousands more people to live and work in the central zones near major transport hubs and have tremendous power to regenerate the area around them. Planners recognise the benefits of tall buildings too. The economic, aesthetic and sustainable planning advantages are well known.”

A key determinant of any application is design. A high architectural quality which pays regard to the site’s context, incorporating the maximum level of sustainability in design and construction, is a must in securing planning permission. Experience has shown that proposals which have good access to transport infrastructure combined with limited effects on the historic context of the capital, offer the best chances of success.

Clusters of tall towers in appropriate locations can bolster up area identity and enable the effects of tall towers on the London skyline to be managed. One of the most dramatic new clusters will be at Embassy Gardens which forms part of the Nine Elms on the South Bank regeneration area. Ballymore’s spectacular new riverside development, now underway, will be adjacent to the new US Embassy when it moves in 2017. The landmark scheme includes almost 2,000 new homes, a boutique hotel, bars and restaurants with a linear park acting as a green lung. A series of tall towers rising to 19 storeys will be linked by lower blocks.

Sean Mulryan, Founder, Chairman and Group CEO of Ballymore Group says, “Embassy Gardens demonstrates how imagination and high quality design, delivered by a fantastic team of committed and skilful people working in a holistic manner, can produce exceptional results.”

Tall towers offer the potential for optimising sites, a key factor in urban areas such as Nine Elms on the South Bank. Careful direction through the planning process can overcome perceived detractors to securing planning permission for tall towers.

Images: Stuart Blakley

CGI images courtesy of Ballymore


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