London is a city transformed. Correction: a city transforming, because the quantity of new architecture that has arisen over the past few years, although remarkable enough, is nothing to what’s coming. Glossy towers are sprouting like the spears on an asparagus bed. We see one of them- the telescope-like tower of the St George Wharf site in Vauxhall-every day; it keeps obtruding on the view like a 21st-century middle finger raised against the integrity of Cubitt’s Pimlico.
This causes less offence to me (old and cynical) than to our children (young and idealistic). They still fume at John Prescott, who ignored local authorities and the planning inspector, all of whom advised against it.
Why did Prescott give permission? The answer is partly because the developers agreed to build a large number of affordable dwellings on another site. That’s how planning works these days. It’s a barter system.
In return for cheap homes, better road systems, street improvements, arts facilities and communal space- the sort of thing that used to be provided by municipal authorities-local government does a deal. It favours a high-profit hotel development over lower-yielding office space, or allows the construction of a blasé tower. Watch the skyline over the next few years. It has, I’m afraid, been traded down the river.
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