Bible’ to guide City development until 2040 takes another step forward

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Guildhall in the City of London
Credit Google

Achieving net zero and adding more than a million square metres of office floorspace are among the policies proposed to guide the City of London and its future developments for more than a decade. The draft City Plan 2040, which will shape everything from housing to transport, yesterday (February 22) took another step forward to implementation, eight years after work on it began.

The approval was not without some pushback however, with concerns aired including whether Bevis Marks Synagogue, the oldest synagogue in the UK, is to receive adequate protection from tall buildings, and if suitable directions are in-place to prevent more office space in the east of the City becoming residential.

A previous draft, City Plan 2036, was proposed and consulted on in 2021 having been worked on since 2016. However, the Corporation chose to not submit it to the Secretary of State for final approval due to a number of issues raised during consultation.

These included concerns about the impacts of tall buildings on heritage sites, sustainability, and changing office and retail demand.

The current draft version is in the process of going through committees for approval, culminating in the Court of Common Council next month. Consultation will then be held over the spring/summer period, before it is submitted to the Secretary of State in the autumn. It is expected to be adopted next summer.

Within the draft plan three key strategic priorities are identified; economic, social and environmental. Beneath these a number of actions are listed, included delivering ‘sustainable economic growth’, involving a net increase in office floorspace of a minimum of 1.2 million square metres, introducing new and inclusive open spaces, and ensuring the City is net zero by 2040, adopting a ‘retrofit first’ approach to development.

NOW READ: City Corporation on track to hit net zero by 2027

At yesterday’s meeting, committee members praised the work of officers to get the plan to its current draft state. Cllr Jason Groves, who represents Tower ward, however raised concerns about the potential transition of offices in the east of the City to homes, something he said was particularly relevant to the insurance industry in the area.

“If we approve this plan as-is, with this zone as-is with a mix of residential, we are going by accident and without any sort of forethought, we are going to end up with five residential wards [the City already has four]. I can tell you, the people in my ward do not want more residents to move in there, and they do not want that extension,” he said.

This point was backed by Deputy Sir Michael Snyder, who said: “We are primarily a financial and business and professional services city. And that doesn’t mean we don’t look after our residents, it doesn’t mean we don’t care about our residents, that’s not what I’m saying. But we are primarily that. And we are the one area in London that actually has always not wanted to pepper-pot residents so we can actually allow tall buildings, or relevant buildings more to the point, for international businesses to be situated here.”

A motion was eventually proposed by Cllr Groves, who wished to ensure the term ‘office-led’ was added back into the part of the draft plan specifically referencing developments in Aldgate, Tower and Portsoken. This was however voted down, before the draft plan was unanimously agreed.

The question of Bevis Marks Synagogue, and whether it is effectively protected from tall buildings, was also raised by Deputy Andrien Meyers. Bevis Marks Synagogue’s Rabbi Morris had previously aired similar concerns with the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS), shortly after the locality was designated a Conservation Area earlier this year.

Deputy Shravan Joshi, who chairs several committees including Planning and Transportation, told Deputy Meyers Bevis Marks is one of only three heritage assets identified in the draft plan, and that its preservation is ‘absolutely critical’. “We will not mark our own homework,” he added. “This will be marked by the Secretary of State.”

The draft City Plan 2040 will now go to the Court of Common Council on March 7.

Draft City Plan 2040: https://www.cityoflondon.gov.uk/assets/Services-Environment/City-Plan-2040.pdf

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