Select committee report says high-rise towers do not make best use of space or prevent urban sprawl.
One year after the World Trade Centre terrorist attacks in New York, a government select committee report has concluded that tall buildings are unnecessary.

In the report, MPs on the urban affairs subcommittee reject claims that skyscrapers are essential to combat urban sprawl and drive the urban renaissance.

Despite 11 September, the MPs concede that tall buildings are "not inherently unsafe", but dismiss claims that they contribute to urban regeneration.

The report says: "The proposition that towers are necessary to prevent urban sprawl is impossible to sustain. "They do not necessarily achieve higher densities than mid- or low-rise development and in some cases are a less efficient use of space than alternatives."

It adds that a planning framework must be developed to avoid the problems associated with many older tall buildings, many of which it says are eyesores.

The report goes on to say that towers should never be sited in historic areas, such as Westminster or Bath.

It says: "It is vital that our historic cities are not forced to undergo another wave of high-rise buildings. We must never repeat the mistakes of the 1960s, vividly illustrated by Bath, where a single tall building insensitively sited and feebly designed has harmed the setting of a great historic town."

The subcommittee also opposes claims by the Corporation of London and London mayor Ken Livingstone that tall buildings are essential to maintain the capital's role as a global financial centre.

The report says: "We received no evidence that any company had left London or refused to come to London because of a shortage of tall buildings."

Subcommittee chairman Andrew Bennett added: "Tall buildings are often more about power, prestige, status and aesthetics than efficient development."

The Corporation of London rejected the report's findings.

Judith Mayhew, chairman of the corporation's policy and resources committee, said clusters of tall buildings acted as transport nodes, minimising the effects of urban sprawl and restricting pollution.

The subcommittee attacked the roles of architectural watchdog CABE and English Heritage. Bennett said: "English Heritage opposes new tall buildings but protects old disastrous towers, and Cabe is seen as a defender of modernist architecture."

Cabe welcomed the report, but hit back at the criticisms of itself.

Paul Finch, CABE deputy chairman, said: "We are far from automatic supporters of tall buildings; we support projects that are in the round, and criticise those which are not."

He added: "Many of our concerns and comments about tall buildings are related to the local environment around the building."