Arthur investigates whether vertical limits on buildings to protect historical skylines are holding back development in Britain’s capital
London is, historically, one of the most beautiful cities in the world. It has been able to maintain this title by restrictive laws surrounding the height of buildings in, and surrounding, some of the most historically important areas of the capital. However, with an ever increasing housing crisis in the city, is it time to start to relax these laws and allow higher rise buildings to be built, thus easing the pressure on other areas.
London is almost unique in this problem. Whilst many cities have similar restrictions, they have been allowed to expand outwards. However, due to being surrounded by a ‘green belt’ London is unable to do this. It is therefore confined to a certain amount of space; space that has almost been filled already. The answer appears simple. build upwards, but in London that is easier said than done.
Millions of people walk across Millennium Bridge each year and gaze out across the beautiful skyline, looking up at a picturesque Saint Paul’s Cathedral, unobstructed by the surrounding buildings. This corridor of viewing is protected by law as historically important, preventing any buildings from being built high enough to block the view. This, many would agree is a good thing. However, there are other restrictions surrounding Saint Paul’s that people may not feel are.
For example, in Richmond Park is King Henry VIII’s mounting post. From here, law states that you must be able to see Saint Paul’s, just like from the Millennium Bridge, meaning no buildings can be built too high in that corridor of sight. However, the backdrop to Saint Paul’s from this position is also protected, meaning kilometre’s of land within London is unable to build upwards past a certain point. This, it seems is excessive; especially when it is considered that you can only see Saint Paul’s from this position on a clear day – a rarity in London.
It seems, therefore, that the vertical limits placed on developments in London may, in some cases, be excessive. When the housing crisis that is sweeping the country’s capital is taken into account this definitely seems to be the case.