Protecting London’s Views

M@
By M@ Last edited 144 months ago
Protecting London’s Views
St Pauls compress.jpg

It all comes down to what you expect to see out of a London hotel bedroom window. In the red corner, we have Ken Livingstone and his insatiable lust for all things over 30 floors. In the blue corner we have the local authorities and their supporters, who don’t want the skyline cluttering up.

Today’s Telegraph highlights the impending clash, after seeing ‘unpublished responses to a consultation paper by the mayor’. It seems that while Ken is proposing to increase the number of protected views, a clever bit of weasel work in the phrasing will allow the quality and width of those views to diminish.

In their Opinion article, the Telegraph make it very clear which side they’re on:

It seems that symbols of state religion and empire offend the mayor so much that he is even prepared to erect towering celebrations of capitalism in order to obscure them.

And they go on to suggest that Ken may have a ‘sinister motive’:

It would also be a rather neat way for the mayor to assume an influence over planning to which he has no statutory claim, thereby confounding Parliament and the boroughs in their attempts to contain him. The proposals have more to do with lines of command than with lines of sight.

It’s good to see people sticking up for the beauty of our city, and attempting to check the increasing powers that the mayor seems to be weaving for himself. The arguments are, in principle, sound. We should not let modern constructions detract from our world-famous historical landmarks.

But the Telegraph highlights some curious examples of what it calls ‘fine vistas’. St Paul’s from Greenwich, for example, which is shown in the photo above. Can you even spot St Paul’s? It’s tiny from this distance. We may be at odds with some of our readers here, but there seems little point in making a fuss over this view.

Their next example, Horse Guards from St James's Park, is laughable. Not only is Horse Guards distinctly average as landmark historic buildings go, but it’s already overwhelmed by both the Ministry of Defence and the London Eye. The combined effect is, we admit, rather impressive. But this serves as a perfect counterargument to the opinion the Telegraph appears to hold, that modern structures necessarily detract from nearby landmarks.

People worried that views of St Paul’s would be ruined by the Gherkin. Give it a few years and we suspect the same lobby groups will decry the obscuring of this landmark tower by the next generation of skyscrapers.

Last Updated 31 October 2005

Phil

That photo is terrible. Take a walk through Greenwich park from the Blackheath side to the observatory and you'll across the view described. It really is one of the finest in London.

M@

Aye, the views from that hill are indeed fine, and much better than the photo suggests. But St Paul's itself looks miniscule from that distance - even in real life - which is the point I was trying to make.