The City of London has launched a public consultation on its local plan, named City Plan 2036.
The plan, which will replace a current plan looking forward to 2026, aims to take account of the changing demands being placed on the City, as well as accommodating changes in central government planning regulations and the evolving London Plan.
“This is an important chance for those who live and work in the Square Mile to feed into the planning framework that will guide decisions we make for the next twenty years,” said Chris Hayward, chairman of the corporation’s planning and transportation committee. “We want to know how our stakeholders feel on a wide range of issues, from their desire to see more hotel room capacity in the City, how to effectively deliver more open space to the City, to the public’s thoughts on the ‘Eastern Cluster’ of tall buildings.”
Predictions are for continued growth in the City workforce, which today numbers around 400,000 on a weekday, with the majority commuting to work via public transport. However, there is plenty of pipeline office space, the report notes: “Schemes under construction and permitted but not commenced could accommodate the Local Plan’s projected increase in office jobs in the City up to 2026.”
However, the changing nature of office occupiers in the City, means there is likely to be increased demand in future for smaller, more flexible office space. This could take the form of serviced offices, but it is likely to mean less need for large floorplate offices of the sort used for financial dealing floors in the last couple of decades.
The corporation has aspirations to make more of the City car free, to reduce traffic danger and pollution, while also giving more space for pedestrians. In key streets, pavement space is already inadequate at peak times.
There are also pressures that will extend the amount of time the City will be busy: “The impact of the Night Tube and the development of the Cultural Hub could be significant, increasing the number of visitors and extending visits until later in the evening,” notes the report.
The corporation previously identified five Key City Places, for modification and improvement. While some of the work on these is under way, other impacts have yet to appear. In the north of the City, for example, a new cultural hub is developing, with the Museum of London looking to move to the western end of the Smithfield meat market. Notes the report: “An estimated two million additional visitors each year are likely to generate demand for more hotels, shops and restaurants, and a coordinated approach with areas immediately beyond the City’s boundary would be required.” The hub is also expected to encourage greater pedestrian flow between it and the Tate Modern, and consideration is being given to how such a route should be enhanced.
Around Liverpool Street station, there are the combined pressures of a new Crossrail service, plus the fact that the Silicon Roundabout area just outside the City has become a major tech business hub. However, such businesses require very different business space to the traditional banking occupiers of Broadgate. Some new projects are outside the corporation’s boundary, but will also impact on business space supply.
The City’s eastern cluster will remain the preferred domain for tall buildings, it is suggested. But with densification will come the need to plan better public realm, and improved pedestrian access. At the same time, the corporation is looking to consolidation to reduce delivery vehicle movements in the area. The Square Mile has 14 more tall buildings in the development pipeline: “Tall buildings are not the only means of accommodating growth and other solutions need to be explored in areas where tall buildings are inappropriate.”
The City will remain a predominantly business district. Today it is reckoned to be home to 8,000 people, with a larger elderly population than across London as a whole, while there are a further 1,400 second home owners. A figure of 110 new homes a year was set out in the local plan, but the London plan asks the corporation to increase this to 141, which officials believe is achievable. “Housing to meet the needs of the City’s growing elderly population needs to be considered, as well as hostel accommodation and student housing.” While the corporation has a tariff of 30% affordable housing, in practice it accepts a payment in lieu, acknowledging that such housing will be provided outside its boundaries.
The consultation runs to the end of October, with two October dates when details of the plan will be on public exhibition. All being well, the document will then go through further iterations and an inspection, before adoption in summer 2019.
LPA Perspective: Not so long ago, the City was celebrating the fact that major insurance companies had put their faith in the Square Mile, with major players moving their operations to London. It was indicative of the comfort the area draws from major office occupiers, in traditional business sectors.
Where the area is less comfortable, is in providing space for the high tech businesses that have clustered around Silicon Roundabout, to the north of the City. To date, the corporation has failed to ignite interest, and older buildings with potentially more interesting interiors, continue to be rebuilt as larger edifices, in search of major corporate office tenants.
While the corporation has been effective in giving consent for future developments, and has been encouraging of tall buildings, there remains a question mark over its attractiveness. Office rents have started to rise, as demand improved in the last couple of years; but they have been left behind by rises in office rents elsewhere in the capital, such as in Westminster. And other parts of the central area are absorbing those businesses that are less concerned about being in the City.
The plan envisages no major change in the corporation’s attitude towards residential development, which is to say that it largely discourages it. Planners take the view that residents cause problems, when it comes to major commercial redevelopment, a view that is reinforced every time a commercial scheme anywhere near the Barbican comes before them – and the Barbican residents generally put up a fight.