Ecobuild latest: Tall building policy is perpetuating London’s housing crisis, BD debate at Ecobuild is warned

The policy of building tall is “playing Russian roulette” with the future of London, according to the director of lobby group Create Streets.

Tall buildings jeopardise the opportunities of children raised in them, said Nicholas Boys Smith during a debate hosted by Building’s sister title BD at Ecobuild.

But they also create hostility among the public towards new development despite the urgent need for more housing, he said at the debate chaired by Building and BD’s architecture critic, Ike Ijeh.

Boys Smith singled out two projects – 250 City Road by Foster & Partners and Grid’s 100 Avenue Road proposal in Swiss Cottage – arguing that equivalent densities could be achieved with lower-rise schemes.

“In a city as great as London, that’s so popular and so loved, we don’t need to predicate our image on a second generation of towers,” he said.

“A housing policy that does require towers is playing Russian roulette with London’s future.”

Speaking to BD after the debate – Tall Towers: The most sustainable way to accommodate a burgeoning population? – Boys Smith said: “It’s insane that two-thirds of the British population said they would never buy a new-build house. That doesn’t apply in any other area of consumer purchasing.”

Planners and developers have little idea what kind of housing people actually want because the shortage of supply means consumers buy anything they can afford, he added.

But Ian Simpson, founder of SimpsonHaugh Architects which has a number of towers under its belt, said people want to live in tall buildings and argued they play an important part in the renaissance of cities.

“Tall, elegant and beautiful buildings can improve the quality of life for residents,” he said.

Building one 100m tower can save 30% of the material used in two 50m towers and will use half the energy of lower-rise multi-family housing, he claimed.

But he lambasted the “eco-branding” of wind turbines and solar panels on buildings.

“That’s not architecture – that’s symbolism used as a way of getting planning consent by appeasing communities and planners,” he said.