On 4 May Croydon Citizen published my discussion article
It was published by I was waiting for a reply to a Freedom of Information request to the Council on the knowledge of Council officers about the issues.
Here are the questions I asked and the answers.
(1) Have the planning and other relevant officers looked at research such as that undertaken by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in Australia, the Berkeley Homes study of their South Quay Plaza proposals, or the paper The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings by Robert Gifford of the Department of Psychology and School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia in Canada?
We are not aware that officers have not read the specific studies and research that you have referred to but it is possible that some officers may have done so as part of their professional studies or CPD (Continuing Professional Development) activities
(2) What analysis has the Council undertaken into the detrimental effects not just on families but also of the psychological issues among residents and the mechanical failures of lifts which can trap residents in tall building structures, or in the case of the elderly and physically disabled prevent them getting up to their homes?
Policies in the Local Plan were subject to a Health Impact Assessment and recommendations from that process were integrated in to the Submission Local Plan. The policies in the plan were also subject to formal consultation and an Examination in Public process and were found sound by an independent Planning Inspector. Scheme proposals that include tall buildings are generally subject to thorough pre-application processes, some including independent review by Croydon's Place Review Panel, and subsequent planning applications are subject to public consultation. Schemes including tall buildings are required to accord with adopted national, regional and local planning policy and all other relevant adopted policy and guidance related to tall buildings. Issues such as those described in your email are considered by applicants and officers as part of the design process to ensure high quality design
(3) Where is the Council’s evidence that particularly for families with children and young people and the elderly living in tall buildings meets the criteria for living in a healthy community?
Please refer to the answer to question 2) above. In addition, a Housing Typologies Study for Croydon Metropolitan Centre, which formed evidence base for the Croydon OAPF and the Local Plan, identified that those areas most appropriate for schemes including tall buildings would not be required to include the same proportion of family homes, acknowledging that it is more challenging to include family homes within tower typologies. The study sets out a range of typologies that could be used in Croydon to optimise family housing provision and indicates that lower rise and mid-rise typologies are more suited to higher proportions of family accommodation
(4) Does the evidence show any difference in family experience between living in blocks up to 10, 20, 30 & 30+ storeys?
We do not have specific evidence regarding family experience at different building heights however appropriateness of different unit types, their design and location within schemes is thoroughly considered as part of pre-apps and planning application process. We would also refer you again to the Housing Typologies Study.
Tall building typologies are not the only development typology being used to deliver new homes in Croydon but where appropriately located and well designed, are expected to form an important part of the overall pattern of growth and development required to meet Croydon's housing need. The provision of high quality family housing is a key priority for the Council and schemes that travel through the planning process are assessed thoroughly by officers in terms of optimising family housing and ensuring that these types are well designed and appropriately located as part of overall scheme design.
In addition to being required to conform with policies set out in the NPPF, London Plan, Local Plan and associated local and national planning guidance, schemes including tall buildings routinely undergo thorough pre-application processes, independent design review and public consultation. Schemes including tall buildings are also required to meet the requirements of the Building Regulations.
The full letter can be seen at
Evidence to the Local Plan Public Hearings
If the officers have not looked at the reports mentioned then it looks like another example of ignoring the evidence submitted during the Local Plan public hearings with the Inspector. In my submission to the Inspector at the session of Tall Buildings I stated:
‘By the mid 1970s it had become clear that living in Council tower blocks was detrimental to families. Wandsworth Council brought in for a short while a policy that no family should be housed above the fourth floor.
There may be a case for having a policy that requires applicants to place 3 bed plus flats only the ground to four floors, and smaller units above. While a two bed may be still be occupied by a family with one child it should be a planning requirement that no sale or renting of a two bed should be to a family with more than one child. If housing is now supposed to be flexible for life, then a family with two children needs to have three bedrooms because at a certain age boys and girls should stop sharing bedrooms. Obviously where a family who has been sold to or is rented to has another child the problem of the need for an extra bedroom becomes difficult.
Of course it can be argued that those couples and parents who purchase a flat have taken on the risk of finding they do not have enough space as they have their first or subsequent child. This is not the case with occupants of affordable housing in tall buildings whose choice may well be prescribed by allocation policies.’
‘If a key aim is ensure a balanced community in the Opportunity Area then the needs of families with children need to be very carefully planned for and measures included in the plan to seek to prevent overcrowding and the sharing of bedrooms by children of the opposite sex after they reach the age where they should have separate bedrooms. Flats also need to be large enough to ensure that children at school have a quirt space to do their homework, especially those at secondary school.
The Policy Exchange’s 2013 report Create Streets argues that:
· demolishing council tower blocks and moving residents to low-rise flats and streets of terrace houses could dramatically improve the quality of life of thousands of Londoners.
· multi-storey housing costs far more to build and maintain so moving families elsewhere would save money in the long-term.
In preparing the Plan did the officers look at research such as that undertaken by the Council for Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat in Australia:
or the Berkeley Homes study of their South Quay Plaza proposals:
or the paper The Consequences of Living in High-Rise Buildings by Robert Gifford of the Department of Psychology and School of Environmental Studies, University of Victoria, Victoria, British Columbia in Canada.
The latter’s abstract states: ‘A full account of architectural science must include empirical findings about the social and psychological influences that buildings have on their occupants. Tall residential buildings can have a myriad of such effects. This review summarizes the results of research on the influences of high-rise buildings on residents’ experiences of the building, satisfaction, preferences, social behavior, crime and fear of crime, children, mental health and suicide. Most conclusions are tempered by moderating factors, including residential socioeconomic status, neighborhood quality, parenting, gender, stage of life, indoor density, and the ability to choose a housing form. However, moderators aside, the literature suggests that high-rises are less satisfactory than other housing forms for most people, that they are not optimal for children, that social relations are more impersonal and helping behavior is less than in other housing forms, that crime and fear of crime are greater, and that they may independently account for some suicides.’’
My final point was to ask what analysis the Council had undertaken of the detrimental effects not just on families but also of the psychological issues among residents and the mechanical failures of lifts which can trap residents in tall building structures, or in the case of the elderly and physically disabled prevent them getting up to their homes? If the Council cannot provide any evidence then it will be unable to prove how its policy of allowing family size homes in tall buildings will fit with promoting health and well-being.’