Communities should decide on tall buildings, not the Council

Local communities should decide whether tall buildings are appropriate in their area, not council officers with developers behind closed doors, Southwark Liberal Democrats have claimed.

At the last meeting of the council, Liberal Democrats asked the Leader of the Council how many tall buildings he thought the borough could accommodate.  Southwark’s leader is known for his love of taller buildings and there has been a boom in high-rise structures locally in recent years, especially of luxury flats in the north of the borough.

In his response the Leader admitted that the Council’s new planning policies will lead to even more buildings over ten storeys in Southwark.  Parts of the borough where new high-rise buildings could go include the Old Kent Road and Canada Water in addition to existing ‘clusters’ at Elephant & Castle, Bankside, Blackfriars and London Bridge.

Liberal Democrat councillors pushed the Council leader on who makes the final decision on tall buildings and which parts of the borough are appropriate.  Residents living around Canada Water have expressed concerns about plans for buildings up to fifty floors high matching Canary Wharf on the opposite side of the river.

Residents’ fears were raised when the council leader answered that ‘the world is not preserved in aspic’ and that council officers will stick to the ‘cluster areas’ the Council has designated as suitable for tall buildings.  These are the main transport interchanges.

Liberal Democrats have called on Southwark to ensure that council officers do not decide where tall buildings should be sited, and that instead local area plans agreed in consultation with residents should set out clearly where tall buildings could be built.  

Southwark Liberal Democrat Regeneration Spokesperson, councillor Adele Morris, said:

“Tall buildings can have their place in a modern city if built to a high standard. 

“But many Southwark residents are concerned at the rash of high-rise buildings going up around the borough, the impact they have on the local environment, and whether they have any genuinely affordable housing for Southwark residents.

“There is also the suggestion in the Council’s Plan that the restrictions on locations for tall buildings are lifted completely.

“Liberal Democrats are fighting residents’ corner and are calling for decisions on where tall buildings should go in Southwark to be for local people.  We believe that clear locations should be identified in full consultation with the community to give clarity to both residents and developers.”