The future of tall buildings post COVID was the focal question of the webinar hosted on 8 June by Montagu Evans with Mark Holbeche, Director at Regal London, Boudewijn Ruitenburg, COO of EDGE Technologies and Heather Cheesborough, Director of Planning & Strategic Transport Croydon Council.
There is no doubt that tall building development has come under scrutiny for a number of reasons in recent years; the Financial Times posited as to whether COVID-19 in fact signaled the end of the ‘high rise’ in their article on 21 April London’s skyscraper boom runs out of steam (Hammond, 21 April, 2020).
By contrast, the panel on 8 June was in fact unanimous in their view that tall buildings would continue to have a future post COVID-19 and that the current situation had only accelerated the importance of ensuring design quality, meaningful amenity provisions and safety.
This was a timely debate following the recent 2020 Tall Buildings survey carried out by the NLA in partnership with Knight Frank and Historic England’s publication of the draft of their revised tall buildings guidance.
We contributed to LondonFirst’s response to Historic England’s document as well as drafting our own reply, finding that, unlike the previous document, this new review puts the onus on Local Authorities to set height restrictive policies, which can be problematic in practice. Overall, the tone is ‘anti’ tall buildings, without proper consideration for the benefits that can be realised as part of promoting sustainable tall development to meet housing targets, particularly in outer London Boroughs and in the current climate, a point picked up in the NLA Study. Planning authorities are all too aware of their role in supporting sustainable development and timely decision making in order to kick start economic activity post- lockdown.
Some 60 tall buildings were completed in 2019 in London, the highest number on record, according to the annual NLA Tall Building Survey, published in partnership with Knight Frank.