Highrise towers are a huge concern for Ealing’s residents.
Here are some frequently asked questions about towers and the Greens.
Aren’t high rise towers an eco-friendly housing solution?
There are some amazing examples of this, and the technology is improving.
A 21story office tower in Vienna: https://www.passivhaustrust.org.uk/news/detail/?nId=250
Fantastic to see progress being made. The Green Party would ensure all buildings were built to PassivHaus or equivalent standard. But this is not what we are seeing built in Ealing in 2020.
In general, as buildings get higher, the energy demands go up. Lifts, of course, but also pumping water, ventilation, embedded construction costs. Heating can become difficult to control with high losses if not properly insulated. Smaller buildings, up to probably (depending on design) around 10 floors, are generally the most energy efficient way to build new homes.
But you’ll all be familiar with ‘reduce, reuse, recycle’. Let’s think about this with housing too.
Reduce energy demands of the housing we have by making sure housing is fitted to the highest environmental standards, by retrofitting with insulation for example.
Reuse- refit and refurbish what we have already. Look at ways to bring second homes and long-term empty homes back into the general market.
Recycle- Get local communities involved in identifying sites that would be suitable for small developments. And make these homes available at a price that those who need it can afford.
Towers make the existing community miserable, isn’t that a good reason to stop them?
There are certainly problems created in existing communities. Here are some focusing on the effect on the local environment:
Tall buildings can cause high winds at their base. The shadows thrown create shadows and dark streets. This means the houses around them need more artificial light for affected properties. Sunlight for solar panels can also be blocked.
Large numbers of new residents in an existing community can have negative effects if not planned for properly. Improved public transport and cycling facilities need to be provided, to prevent traffic build up. This is rarely done. We need to build housing that means you don’t rely on a car to lead a full life.
Why do Greens get involved in planning? Aren’t you about environmental issues?
As you can see there are plenty of environmental issues in planning. And so far we have just talked about buildings. There’s also protecting the green spaces- parks, areas of outstanding national beauty, local green space protection, metropolitan open land protection, trees preservation orders.
A common misconception about the Green Party is that we are only interested in ‘green’ issues. We see it like this:
The Green Party is a party of social and environmental justice, which supports a radical transformation of society for the benefit of all, and for the planet as a whole. We understand that the threats to economic, social and environmental wellbeing are part of the same problem, and recognise that solving one of these crises cannot be achieved without solving the others (from our core values, https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/core-values.html).
We need to look at the environmental impact of towers, but also at whether they solve the housing issues affecting our society. In Ealing, they don’t offer enough solutions to the need for genuinely affordable housing, social housing, housing for families, provision for the homeless. Rather, Government policy has encouraged the treatment of housing as a form of speculative investment, rather than a basic requirement for individual and social well-being.
We need more housing, so what do you suggest if you don’t like towers?
What we actually need is more social and more affordable housing. We don’t need tower blocks that only the affluent can afford and which are being built to make gigantic profits for developers, landowners and speculators.
But how can we afford these high environmental standards?
Landowners and developer make vast profits from current tower block developments. Developers can afford to build high quality flats and still make a profit. It just needs the political will to stand up to developers and insist on this.
So what’s next?
Get involved! We have the solutions if we work together.
Stops the Towers are working with local MPs to propose a Design Review Panel. This would be a great start.
Ealing groups to get involved with:
Check out more on Green Party policy here: https://policy.greenparty.org.uk/ho.html
More on planning from Ealing Greens here: