Saving the London skyline

Fresh from taking part in another “whither the capital” debate, Simon Jenkins ponders what is beginning to look like a losing battle:

I find debating high buildings with an audience dominated by architects is like debating solar energy with oil executives. The money is against you. Almost every fight to conserve what I still struggle to call the beauty of London’s skyline  has been a fight against architects and developers…

Towers are not the answer, any more than they are in high-density cities such as Paris. Towers used to be for offices, until firms deserted their high costs and shrunken floor plates for “high-density low-rise”. The Gherkin is bankrupt. Across London office towers stand empty, their owners selling to Gulf funds and hoping one day for an upturn. As for houses, Londoners clearly prefer low-rise, paying soaring prices for the high-density terraces of Victorian west and north London. Today’s rash of residential towers are mostly erected by foreign investors for use as bank collateral, not for living in. They are an eccentric economic microclimate or tax-evading savings parked in the sky over London. They house hardly anyone and stand dark at nights and weekends, making no contribution to London’s social or commercial life.

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