CABE and Tall Buildings Policy

The publication is relevant to every town and city in the country. It notes that a 12 storey building which may not be a major issue in Birmingham, Manchester or London, would need to be very carefully considered if it were proposed for Taunton or Norwich, for example. By drawing together advice on the circumstances where tall buildings are appropriate, the Guidance on Tall Buildings will be invaluable to planners across the UK when they consider new schemes.

Guidance on Tall Buildings says:

‘Cites and their sky-lines evolve. In the right place, tall buildings can make positive contributions to city life. They can be first-rate works of architecture in their own right … and they can serve as beacons of regeneration, and stimulate further investment.

‘However, by virtue of their size and prominence, such buildings can also harm the qualities that people value about a place. There have been too many examples which have been unsuitably sited, poorly designed and detailed, badly built or incompetently managed.

‘That is why it is right that projects which come forward now should be subject to the very closest scrutiny, and that the very highest standards should be applied. Projects need to be considered in the round.’

Guidance on Tall Buildings sets out the following criteria:

Relationship to context and the effect on the skyline

Effect on the whole existing environment

Relationship to transport infrastructure

Architectural quality including scale, form and materials

Contribution to public spaces both within and outside the building and to ‘sense of place’

Effects of microclimate, overshadowing, night-time appearance and vehicle movements

How approachable the site is on foot and how it opens up or closes views of the city around

Function and fitness for purpose

Sustainability in social and economic terms

English Heritage and CABE are asking for comments on Guidance on Tall Buildings from everyone involved in planning, designing and using the built environment. Copies will be distributed to every local authority in the country and are available to everyone who wants to have their say through the CABE and English Heritage web-sites.

Sir Neil Cossons, Chairman of English Heritage, said today:

‘Our cities are under pressure as never before from a plethora of proposals for tall buildings. But do we really need them? Do the public really want them? We will all end up living in their shadow so 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 will outweigh the costs.’

Sir Stuart Lipton, Chairman of CABE, added:

‘In an appropriate environment with the proper infrastructure tall buildings make extremely positive contributions to the life of cities. High quality and well planned towers can take their place in society and serve as beacons of regeneration.

‘The only way to judge when we should endorse a tall building and when we should steer clear is to consider each application with the very closest scrutiny and on a case by case basis. The way we scrutinise proposals is also extremely important – looking at schemes on the drawing board does not allow us to experience the tall building three dimensionally, a process which is fundamental to judging success. Transport, context, public spaces and the integration of the building into the existing environment are just as crucial to success of tall buildings as their appearance.’

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