Too many skyscrapers could harm Britain's environment, say advisers

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The Independent Online

A public debate on tall buildings and their effect on those caught in their shadow was demanded yesterday by the Government's advisers on conservation and architecture.

The call for a period of discussion comes as British cities are under pressure as never before from demands for ever-larger buildings.

However the potential for adding extra layers to planning processes were yesterday described as a "gamble" by the City, which warned London could lose its position as the leading world financial centre if foreign investors are dissuaded from bringing their operations to the capital because of building regulations.

The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), with English Heritage, yesterday released the consultation paper on tall buildings designed as a basis for future planning guidelines.

The paper said there had been too many examples of badly sited and poorly designed tall buildings. However Cabe is in favour of the controversial London Bridge Tower, the glass needle designed to soar 1,000 feet above London, and is currently examining proposals for tall buildings in places such as Liverpool, Leeds and Reading.

Sir Neil Cossons, chairman of English Heritage, said yesterday: "We should only give the go-ahead, when the issues have been thoroughly explored, the social and economic arguments properly made and we can be sure that the benefits outweigh the costs. There may be opportunities for towers in parts of London or other cities."

"If towers are going to be a fact of life in London... then we need to ensure that they make a real contribution, as opposed to detracting from the environment," he said.

But Judith Mayhew, chairman of the policy and resources committee at the Corporation of London, said City developers needed speed and certainty.

She warned: "The majority of City firms... are owned by overseas companies and it does not take much to discourage them from staying here."

Writing in The Independent today, London's Mayor Ken Livingstone said he was disappointed Cabe did not make a greater acknowledgement of the positive role that tall buildings could play in cities.