There are cities all over the world that have no problem with high-rise living, from New York to Singapore. Land in London is scarce and we need to make the most use of it – not only to ensure the city has space to grow, but also that we protect those green spaces that make London special. There are also wider green considerations – knocking down perfectly good buildings can be very unfriendly to our environment. Where there are problems in the UK with high-rise, it is usually a reflection of the management of the building and its environment, or poor design. But it is possible to manage a high-rise well. People often point towards low-rise cities such as Paris or Washington as exemplars. But each of these has its own significant housing and crime problems. The best cities offer variety, and that is something London does well.
Ian Fletcher is a policy director at the British Property Federation.
The UK’s housing crisis presents an opportunity. There are many ugly multi-storey council estates built between 1950-1980 in the UK, and our research calls for them to demolished and replaced with terraced houses and low rise flats. Multi-storey living is unpopular. It alienates residents and exacerbates crime. Yet planners now support building more high-rise council estates. This is delivering far too few new homes in London (construction on just 16,000 homes began in the latest annual period). Multi-storey council estates in London and elsewhere need to undergo a redevelopment programme involving local people in the planning process. This will deliver the homes people want to live in. We believe this will mean more terraced streets and low rise flats – not more modernist concrete slabs.
Alex Morton is head of housing, planning & urban policy at Policy Exchange.