Peter Wynne Rees takes a boat trip on the Thames to point out the highs and lows of the capital’s
About a year after the residents of the Heron Tower in the City of London moved into their glistening new skyscraper, they decided to form a residents’ association. Yet when they tried to gather support for the idea among their fellow tower dwellers, they encountered a problem: they couldn’t find half of the residents.
“They hadn’t even picked up the keys 12 months on,” says Peter Wynne Rees. “If that isn’t an indication of their motive for buying a property, I don’t know what is.”
Rees, who not only lives in the building but guided its planning application in his previous
role as the City’s chief planner, offers the vignette as a prime example of what he believes is
wrong with the capital’s property market: speculative foreign investors are flooding in,
pushing out locals with cash purchases and exacerbating the city’s housing shortage by
leaving their homes empty. Now a professor of places and city planning at the Bartlett
School of Planning in Bloomsbury, Rees is freer to speak his mind than in his 29 years as a
planning official in the City of London Corporation, the Square Mile’s local authority. And
his opinions on the city he has helped to shape are fluent, informed and often scathing.
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