Tuesday 30 March 2004 3.22pm
I don't think we should knock anything down. However I do think that we should give it a lot of thought before we fill the remaining green spaces along the river with spurious "culture", or with additional living space come to that.
I also think that, when London needs a new civic/"cultural" building, it probably should be anywhere other than on the South Bank. The initial development (things like the beautiful Sth Bank Centre) took up valuable riverside space that can only be used once, but was definitely a good thing, IMO, because it regenerated the area and made it the great place it is today. The same probably holds true for the initial residential developments and conversions. They brought people into a neglected area and those people created demand and that brought us the fairly well-served riverside we have today.
We do need more homes, and we will need more civic and cultural buildings. It's silly to pretend otherwise. I probably think, however, that these should be built elsewhere than the Sth Bank. Unless we're careful, the riverside will become a seamless frontage of buildings and I think this would be irreversible (in the medium term at least), and a great shame. It also denies the regenerative power of new developments to other parts of the city.
Developers will want to build pretty much anywhere in London that they are allowed to. The simple supply and demand equation that means houses here are so much more expensive than elsewhere in the country pretty much guarantees that. I think it would be more forward-sighted if we exercised control over building in places like Potters Fields and channelled developers into (possibly nearby) areas that could benefit much more from new money coming in.
Most commercial ventures are a risk to some degree. The people who developed the first sites down the Sth Bank were sticking their necks out a bit. Somehow this makes me feel that it's reasonably fair that they make a bit of profit if they sell their homes on now. However, there is no such risk element in letting someone build flats on an established premium site and scarce resource like Potters Fields. It strikes me as more of a license to print money.
I'd like to see the council taking a stand and managing new developments in a way that gets the most out of the developers in terms of investment in areas that need them. If I am a shareholder, I have a right to expect my board to make my money work as hard as it can and bring the biggest rewards. I would hope to expect something similar from my council when it comes to giving the green light to developers and telling them where they can and cannot build.
...there's plenty more c**** in the cup.