The sky’s not the limit?

The City of London is filled with a new generation of skyscrapers – the Gherkin, Heron Tower, Leadenhall Building (the ‘cheese grater’) to name but a few. But real estate buyers looking to build the next great sky scraper in London may face difficulties.

Londoners are getting increasingly protective over their skyline. Londoners are proud of the heritage and history behind the London skyline and skyscraper developers are starting to face challenges from historical bodies and planning authorities over the erection of any more ivery tall buildings. If English Heritage are not sure about your plans, they call a major public enquiry where the building plans must be justified to the Secretary of State.

The current crop of tall buildings started in 2000 when Ken Livingstone, mayor of London, gave the green light to tall buildings after decades of stifling in which towers had been capped to ensure that London landmarks remained as unoscured as possible. At the time, the City of London authority welcomed the move as it was worried that many major firms were moving out of the City of London into the Docklands where skyscrapers were not as restricted, therefore taking much finance out of the centre of the City.

Englishg Heritage have proved to be the biggest thorn in the side of skyscraper development – both the Shard of Glass and the Heron Tower underwent reviews by the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister after English Heritage objected to the plans. Although developers won both cases, the war is not over. English Heritage have teamed up with a top barrister and have objected to the plans for a 160 meter ‘Walkie-Talkie’ building. In 2006,

English Heritage’s campaign was further boosted when the World Heritage Committee criticised the British government for failing to protect the views of the Tower of London and other World Heritage Sites against encroachment by other tall buildings. The World Heritage Committee threatened to add the Tower of London to it’s list of sites in danger and has demanded that the British government put together a report on how they intend to protect the Tower.

This could be the start of a new trend away from skyscrapers towards other forms of development. Looking to the east of London and the Docklands, a lot of the money is being poured into redevelopment rather than taller buildings. Skyscrapers are expensive to build and don’t always offer a good return on investment, whereas the redevelopment of the area is likely to give much better returns. However, people love a skyscraper. Although they may not be as profitable as a different sort of real estate development, they often become icons – something instantly recognisable. People love landmarks, and skyscrapers fulfill that need.

So it seems for real estate developers in the City of London, skyscrapers are not the way of the future and developers will be looking for other real estate development trends to give themselves good returns on investment.

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