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Revolt over bid to build skyscrapers

Activists demand ‘real dialogue’ and warn of push for short-term profit

26 May, 2017 — By Alina Polianskaya

Cllr Daniel Astaire has urged people to take part in the consultation about tall buildings

AN unprecedented alliance of community groups has united in calls for the council to scrap its tall buildings vision for Westminster.

The critics urge the council to withdraw its controversial consultation on whether “significantly taller buildings” be built warning that the area’s “history, culture and beauty” is under threat.

The Thorney Island Society, Westminster Cathedral Area Residents Group, the Belgravia Society, Soho Society, Seven Dials Trust and Fitzrovia West Neighbourhood Forum are among the long list of groups signing a joint letter to planning chief Councillor Danny Astaire.

The letter said: “Future generations would be right to blame us for not defending the long-term benefit of the many while permitting the short-term profit of the few.” It said that economic growth does not go “hand in hand with increased density and or height” and that the consultation is “a one-sided push for high-rise buildings which does not have the support of the majority of Westminster residents and business occupants”.

They urge the council to start “a real dialogue” with the people of Westminster. “High rise at the centre of our historic capital city threatens to destroy the iconic beauty of central London not just for Westminster but also for neighbouring boroughs, and would be at the expense of our international reputation as a world class city.”

The letter also called for existing planning laws on height to be retained and asked the council to rethink the effect of taller buildings on the environment and on people’s quality of life. Skyline Campaign’s Barbara Weiss has also launched a petition against changing policies to tall buildings.

In an email to the community, she said: “It was very gratifying to hear that we had quite possibly more signatures from individuals to our petition than Cllr Astaire to his consultation… though we were also told that the developers are incredibly excited at the prospect of a relaxation to planning pol- icy, so we really cannot be complacent.”

The petition, now signed by more than 640 people, says that the council’s “questionnaire should be disregarded, it is devious and dishonest”. It highlighted the effect that building higher in Paddington, Victoria and Tottenham Court Road could have on surrounding conservation areas, and added: “This would be the kiss of death to conservation in Westminster.”

Cllr Astaire urged people to take part in the “once-in-a-generation” chance to help “shape the future” of the city. He said: “No final decisions have been made – we’re asking people to take part in our consultation so we can deliver the right kind of growth to Westminster which maximises benefits for residents, workers, visitors and businesses. We’re listening to the views of everyone who has an interest in our world-class city and the feedback we receive will run through our City Plan and other policies. This is part of our vision to Create a City for All – which is why we’re urging as many people as possible to have their say now.”

The consultation deadline has been extended until May 29 and can be viewed at: www.openforum.westminster.gov.uk/

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