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Do Skyscrapers Have a Future in London?

Hogan Lovells hosted the Reading Real Estate Foundation Breakfast Forum (RREF) on 18 November. RREF is a registered charity and has been set up to provide support for real estate and planning education at the University of Reading.

The event featured presentations by:

  • Irvine Sellar, Founder and Chairman of Sellar Property;
  • Peter Rees, former City Planning Officer for City of London Corporation; and
  • Steve McGuckin, Global Managing Director of Turner and Townsend.

The presenters discussed why “building tall” is necessary in certain areas, for example where space is in short supply or in areas where it is hoped that a new skyscraper development can regenerate an area and have a positive economic effect.  Irvine Sellar and Steve McGuckin discussed The Shard and the impact that it is having and is expected to have on London Bridge Quarter, such as generating 12,500 jobs in the area.

Peter Rees commented on a number of examples of skyscrapers that had not had the desired effect on the areas in which they are based.  Peter expressed his concern that many new residential skyscrapers could become “ghost towns” as, rather than being owner-occupied, flats are bought for investment purposes as safe havens for capital.  Peter advocated that more office skyscrapers would have been preferable in many cases.

Irvine Sellar and Peter Rees both discussed the importance of public access, with the two presenters exchanging jokes at the other’s expense about which of The Shard and The Walkie-Talkie did this best: The Shard with 1million visitors per year and access for the public to the viewing gallery throughout the day, or the Walkie-Talkie which only allows the public to access its rooftop winter garden twice a week, albeit for free. All agreed that the signs of a job well done are the creation of a space that attracts the public and improves the surrounding area.

The presenters all agreed that the answer to the question: “Do Skyscrapers Have a Future in London?” is “yes…if done well”.