Unecessarily tall buildings in the City of London must be avoided, a former Tory MP standing as an independent mayoral candidate says.

Rory Stewart, a former environment minister, said the cultural heart of the capital must not become “like Hong Kong”.

Mr Stewart, a Remainer who lost the Conservative whip in September and is standing down as MP for Penrith and the Borders, said today that as Mayor he would prioritise the City’s ancient heritage.

Speaking at a London Chamber of Commerce event, he said: “I’m not wary of new buildings, but I am wary of unnecessary high buildings in the Square Mile.”

He added: “I think the decision they made in the 1980s to focus on high buildings in places like Canary Wharf was the correct decision.

“To keep trying to turn the City of London into something that looks like Hong Kong would be a mistake.

“Because that’s where our Roman churches are, that’s where St Paul’s is, probably the most precious heritage site in our capital. I think that we got it wrong there. ”

London’s financial district is home to numerous historical sites, including St Paul’s cathedral, the Roman walls of the city and the Monument.

Since the 1960s, the Square Mile has seen taller buildings begin to dominate the skyline.

The tallest building in the City is now 22 Bishopsgate, known as Twentytwo.

Though yet to open, it has reached its full height of 278m or 62 storeys.

But it will soon be overtaken. 1 Undershaft – nicknamed The Trellis – yesterday won planning permission after a three-year dispute.

At 73 storeys, it will be London’s second tallest building, just 5m shorter than The Shard.

But there has been pushback on new developments from City Hall.

In July, Sadiq Khan vetoed the Tulip, after the City of London Corporation had approved the plans. He said the 305m tower had “very limited public benefit”.

Mr Stewart said: “The City of London is the core of the heritage of this country. It was a Roman city, it was the first capital of our nation, and very little of it now remains.

“Just visible is the heritage that links us to Shakespeare and Doctor Johnson.”

Skyscrapers in the City include The Cheesegrater in Leadenhall Street, The Scalpel in Lime Street, and Tower 42 in Old Broad Street.

Across London, a record 541 buildings over 20 storeys are currently planned or being built, with 76 due to be finished this year, New London Architecture found.