Decision Maker: Planning and Transportation Committee
Decision status: Recommendations Approved
Is Key decision?: No
The Committee considered a report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director regarding i) demolition of 41-43 Mincing Lane, 40-54 Fenchurch Street, former church hall and the Clothworkers' Hall and its redevelopment to provide a new building comprising four levels of basement (including a basement mezzanine level), ground, mezzanine, plus part 9, 31 and 35 storeys plus plant containing offices (B1) and flexible shop/financial and professional services/cafe and restaurant uses (A1/A2/A3) at ground floor level; and flexible shop/cafe and restaurant/drinking establishment uses (A1/A3/A4) at levels 10 and 11, including winter garden (Sui Generis); ii) reprovision of the Clothworkers'
accommodation (Sui Generis) within part ground, part first, part second and part third floors and four levels of basement (including a basement mezzanine level); iii) creation of ground
level public access to level 10 roof garden and basement level 1 to Grade II Listed crypt; iv)dismantling, relocation and reconstruction of the Lambe's Chapel Crypt to basement level 1 and associated exhibition accommodation (Sui Generis) (listed Grade II); v) alterations to and conservation of the Grade I Listed Tower of All Hallows Staining; vi) provision of new hard and soft landscaping and other associated works.
(The total proposed floor area of the new building is 94,336sq.m GIA, comprising 88,064sq.m of office floorspace, 289sq.m of flexible retail floorspace (A1/A2/A3), 550sq.m of flexible retail floorspace (A1/A3/A4),789sq.m of livery hall floorspace, 214sq.m of crypt floorspace and 430sq.m of winter garden floorspace. The building would rise to a maximum height of 149.6m when measured from the lowest office ground floor level, 165.1m AOD.)
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director presented the case which he explained was situated at an island site, at 50 Fenchurch Street, comprising of a number of buildings, all of which were constructed in the 1950s but also including a listed church tower. He confirmed that none of the site was within a conservation area.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director drew Members’ attention to views of the site looking West and East of Fenchurch Street and the view of the Grade I listed church tower at All Hallows Staining looking North-West, under which a listed crypt was also situated.
With regard to the church tower remains, these would be restored and situated at the centre of the new public park. To the north of this, would be a lightwell that would provide light to the subterranean Clothworkers Hall.
At basement area, the Clothworkers Hall inhabit the lower areas on the Eastern side of the site. It was explained that the Clothworkers Hall would go down deeper still to basement levels 2 and 3.
Above ground floor level, would be a mezzanine area to gain access through escalators up to the lifts. There would be a double storey retail unit on the north-east corner of the office building and the upper levels of the Clothworkers Hall. Moving up the building, flexible office floorplans came into play. Again, in the north-east corner the Clothworkers Hall rose up with the terrace on the perimeter.
Members were shown a typical floorplan at podium level, rising up to the 10th floor publicly accessible roof garden terrace and a new glazed winter garden facing south, as well as a perimeter walk. There was also a double height retail space feeding off of level 10 and the public amenity and the office floorplans rise from here up through the tower and step back to allow for a private office terrace at level 32.
Members were informed that both plants and the greenwall had been thoroughly checked by the District Surveyor in terms of fire safety and were found to be sound.
Members were shown images of the existing and proposed developments.
It was shown that the proposals would improve pedestrian access to Fenchurch Street station, provide new public realm and also frame views of the church tower which would be an important way finding element to entice people into the public park. The view looking south-eastwards at the north-west corner of the building would be the space housing the new office entrance with a triple height base but with a green terracotta, creating architectural unity to the building.
A view of existing and proposed development was also shown, looking back, standing directly to the north of the 20 Fenchurch Street Tower which gave the impression of a fairly sleek and well-placed tower and depicted the strong wayfinding appearance of the level 10 public amenity and roof terrace.
Officers reported that the All Hallows Staining Tower was currently lost in pretty unexceptional surroundings for such an important Grade I listed building. In the views looking north-west a 1950s single-storey structure was visible in the foreground leaving the church tower struggling to maintain any townscape presence. The proposal stripped this away and developed a public square with the tower as its centre point. Two openings of the tower would be opened to allow visitors into the tower, and it would be framed by mature planting. The presentation also showed, to the right-hand side of the tower, the new lightwell giving light into the winter garden of the Clothworkers Company as well as the mature planting around the periphery of the tower itself.
From the new public square, moving from East to West the tower would be visible on the right-hand side, this would be the pedestrian environment approaching the roof garden entrance and into the exhibition. There was a real sense of gravitas to the entrance, directly opposite the tower, with members of the public entering onto the lift lobby area/public reception where there would be two lifts both of which would have options to either travel up to the roof garden at level 10 or downwards to the Lambe’s Chapel crypt. In terms of the crypt itself, Members were shown images of the existing crypt which Officers reported had started life in the 12th century, in Monkwell Street under the Barbican and was bequeathed to the Clothworkers in the 16th century. Upon demolition of that building, in 1870, the removal of the crypt was rather amateurish as it was taken down and pieced together in a new setting at a wrong alignment with only half of the original crypt reinstated and semi-submerged. Historically, it is in rather an unusual location, currently located next to the church with no public access. The proposal involved the careful dismantling and reinstatement/restoration of the crypt into a new purpose-built exhibition under listed building consent. The area to the left in the plan would be a reintroduction of the original scale of the crypt with the public exhibition telling the story of the history of the crypt and the Clothworkers and the historical importance of this part of the City. Members were also shown an impression of the look and feel of the public exhibition with the reinstated crypt in a more befitting environment. The exhibition would be free for the public to visit.
Level 10 would also be a free public area and would host a reception with entrance to either the perimeter walkway or directly through a glazed conservatory winter garden, making the space much more adaptable in inclement weather/the winter months. The perimeter walkway would be sheltered under the soffit which again provides added robustness for usage in the winter season/inclement weather.
All parties, including the Clothworkers themselves, acknowledge that there will be a significant diminishment in sunlight to the roof garden of 120 Fenchurch Street which Officers agreed was unfortunate. However, they highlighted that any major development in the City overshadows its surroundings. The public gardens and roof terraces were intended to complement the growing City and not to constrain growth.
The site did not lie in one of the areas stipulated as being inappropriate for tall buildings but there had, nevertheless, been a very robust assessment of its appropriateness here. Members were shown images that depicted the proposal in context, alongside all other consented tall buildings. Officers stated that they were of the view that it would fit neatly and comfortably into the emerging cluster of tall buildings.
Officers referred to the fact that a number of objections had been received on the impact of the proposed tower on the Tower of London World Heritage Site. Members were informed that the World Heritage Site is managed in a number of ways, one of which is the via the London View Management Framework (LVMF), a strategic framework in which the view of the Tower of London is key. The local settings study also sets out 12 key views within the World Heritage Site and views out of which the report takes into account. Members were informed that the local settings study sprang from the World Heritage Site Management Plan, a Plan agreed by all stakeholders.
The existing consented schemes in the cluster were shown alongside this proposed scheme, with the proposed development being rendered up with a greenwall. Officers were of the view that the proposed scheme in these views settled very comfortably at the centre of the cluster. Officers stated that they did not believe that there was any harm caused to the World Heritage Site which could be seen at a significant distance away to the east. Another LVMF view from the north bastion of the Tower of London with the White Tower with a very prominent/distinctive profile in the centre. Officers reported that, again there was management guidance on this view. Members were shown the existing situation alongside the proposed situation alongside all of the consented schemes with the proposed depicted as being some distance west of the White Tower, very comfortably silhouetted against the emerging cluster of tall buildings. It was therefore felt that there was no harm to the Outstanding Universal Value setting of the World Heritage Site in this view.
A number of respondents had commented on the other 12 views identified in the Local Settings Study – one of which is the scaffold site. Members were shown an image taken of the existing view from the scaffold site alongside the proposed view from this site where the development, outlined in red, was barely perceptible. Officers explained that this was an unusual and kinetic view, in that, if you were to move forward towards the church, the whole Cluster would be invisible but if you were to step back the cluster would become quite a dynamic backdrop. It was therefore not considered that this was harming the views out of the World Heritage Site. Members were informed that a number of other views had been assessed including the view looking over the inner ward from the southern curtain wall which had been specifically mentioned in the representations. From here, the cluster of tall buildings including 20 Fenchurch Street could be seen to the west and the proposed development was shown from here as sitting very comfortably alongside this cluster of tall buildings therefore demonstrating no harmful impact in the opinion of Officers.
Finally, Members were shown two different images – the existing and proposed views – rendered to give an accurate impression of the impact of the development. The proposal was shown in the foreground of consented schemes with a dynamic greenwall façade facing south.
In summary, Officers commended this as a very good scheme in wider planning terms, providing a 36-fold increase in public realm which was quite unprecedented for the City in a part of the City where this was at a premium. A new public square would also be provided – a rare opportunity in the City - with the church tower as a centre piece, greatly enhancing the setting of this hugely important Grade I listed building. The public realm provides a much more comfortable pedestrian environment around the cluster and also to Fenchurch Street, future proofing this part of the City for the forecast increase in pedestrians. The 10th floor terrace and the roof garden is a hugely valued public asset for the City – there are very limited opportunities to provide new pocket parks within the Cluster because of development pressure and those areas need to facilitate pedestrian movement so the concept of bringing public realm up the building, taking people away from the bustle of the streets below, creating a quiet environment with the views offered at high level is very beneficial and an important contribution to the City. Members were informed that Officers considered the design to be a very refined and sleek, contemporary design. There would be free public access to the new public exhibition of the crypts. The servicing of the building would be futureproofed by consolidation with no off-peak deliveries. The proposal would provide a new, modern Livery Hall for the Clothworkers Company who are a key part of the City’s cultural and philanthropic offer and it would provide 60,000 sq. m. of net internal area, high-quality, flexible office floor space which will go some way to achieve the Local Plan targets by 2026 and an important contribution towards the City maintaining its role as an international business centre. Officers concluded by stating that the proposal was recommended favourably.
The Chair thanked Officers for their presentation and invited the Clerk of the Clothworkers Company, Jocelyn Stuart-Grumbar, to address the Committee. The Chair highlighted that Mr Stuart-Grumbar was joined by several colleagues to help respond to any questions Members might have.
Mr Stuart-Grumbar reported that the Clothworkers Company has been on its current site, the subject of today’s applications for nearly 500 years. The part the company plays in the heritage of the site and the City of London as a whole is extremely important. Members were informed that, in considering their options for optimising their island site, the Clothworkers Foundation and the Company had been keen to maintain their historic physical link with the site and secure its future. More than this, they saw it as their duty to be custodians of their assets for future generations, safeguarding the heritage whilst capitalising on their income to ensure that the Clothworkers Foundation may continue to expand its grant making and social investment activities and the Clothworkers Company can increase its support for UK textiles and for skills generally. Mr Stuart-Grumbar went on to state that the Clothworkers were conscious that their site included the 700-year-old Grade I listed tower of All Hallows Staining and the Grade II William Lambe Crypt, which was moved from Monkwell Street in 1873. Neither the medieval tower nor the crypt is currently accessible to the public, however, proposals presented today, designed by world renowned British architect Eric Parry, offer the opportunity to conserve these and to ...
The public realm offer was designed to complement the roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street, the freehold of which is owned by the Clothworkers Company. With the exception of the listed elements, the site currently comprises a collection of buildings of generally poor quality architecturally. The Livery Hall, hastily constructed after the Blitz, requires significant upgrades and the surrounding commercial buildings are increasingly unfit for purpose. Together with their professional team, the Clothworkers have worked collaboratively with City Corporation Officers over the past two years to develop the scheme presented today. We believe that this exciting and unique project will not only provide one of the most modern and environmentally sensitive commercial buildings yet to be developed in the City of London, but that it also offers a new cultural asset with the significant addition of publicly accessible space for those working in and visiting the Square Mile. A modern Livery Hall for the Clothworkers Company will enable us to better meet their civic responsibilities and philanthropic goals for generations to come. On behalf of the Clothworkers Company, Mr Stuart-Grumbar sought the Committee’s support for these applications.
The Chair thanked Mr Stuart-Grumbar for his presentation and invited questions from Members.
A Member questioned the degree of re-use of the new building and how much of the old building would be re-used under these proposals. In terms of design, he also questioned how much of the proposed building might be reusable in the future if it were to be redeveloped. Eric Parry responded by stating that there would be an enormous amount of recycling of material from the existing buildings, up to 80%, although not all necessarily on the new proposal. In terms of future use, the proposal was specifically designed so that the new Clothworkers building could, if it were to be a future requirement, be retained whilst a new building is built on the site adjacent. The proposals today were intended to enshrine the public realm, enshrining, with the blessing of Historic England, work to the Grade I listed tower and the Grade II listed Crypt and provide a new facility for the Clothworkers to enable commercial development.
Another Member questioned how the public realm element of the proposal was to be managed. He commented that one way of looking at this was that it was private land to which the public have access, the other is that some element of public highway is maintained. He stated that it was clear within the report that the lightwell rather demanded that some of the existing highway was stopped up but asked whether the applicant would accept a situation where there was still public highway across their land or whether it was part of their scheme that it has to all be private to which the public have access when then choose.
Eric Parry responded by stating that if there was no restriction on public access across the site, it was not gated and was therefore a genuine public square on the Clothworkers demise/property, it would, for all intents and purposes, be another civic square and not a gated space.
Members then proceeded to ask questions of Officers and debate the application.
A Member commented that this was clearly a very significant proposal and had been very well thought through, particularly in terms of public realm benefits. She went on to refer to the strong objections lodged by Generali, specifically in relation to the overshadowing of the roof garden and the rebuttal to this and questioned Officers whether or not they had taken their own independent, separate analysis to help inform the proposals. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director explained that the two late representations referred to by the Member consisted of submissions from two daylight consultants querying each other’s conclusions. He added that he felt it amounted to one consultant thinking that the other consultant modelled up a previous scheme which was not what was built. He went on to state that he did not feel that the difference between the two was not particularly significant as both agree, as do Officers, that the proposal would result in a significant diminishment of light to the roof garden. As their positions were both so closely aligned on this point it was not felt necessary to seek independent verification of this given that the conclusion was largely the same.
The same Member then stated that reference was made in the submission to large occupiers whose lease events occur between 2023-2027 and questioned how Officers had reflected how office space requirements may change post the COVID-19 pandemic. She questioned whether there was also a risk that the City could find itself with empty high-grade office space as large companies adapt to new ways of working and may choose not to return to the City. Officers responded by referring to recent announcements from companies such as Barclays and Twitter as to how they were going to be using office space going forward, they cautioned, however, that it was still very early days in terms of understanding the impacts of COVID-19 on office space. Alongside suggestions that there may be a reduction in the need for space, Officers reported that they had also seen some discussions around the need for additional space to account for lower density occupation due to social distancing requirements. Within the Local Plan that was being progressed at the moment was a strong monitoring framework which would enable the City to monitor changes in trends as time progressed and, if necessary, adjust and reflect those changes in the Local Plan going forward. In conclusion, Officers suggested that it was still too early to say with any certainty what the impacts of COVID-19 will be although this would continue to be closely monitored.
Another Member commented that these proposals concerned an important area of the City and that she could see why these were being recommended for approval by Officers today. She went on to refer to some of the objections received, commenting that Genrali’s development at 120 Fenchurch Street was pushed for at the time and, had they not have acted quite so hastily, they may have found that such a large roof terrace may not have been granted approval. The Member went on to commend the way that the Clothworkers had obviously worked very diligently alongside the diocese and the Church and commented that major Livery Companies and the City Heritage Club were also supportive of this proposal.
A Member commented that she had some concerns about the height of the building stating that most of the images she had seen seemed to be from angles that seemed to place it within the City Cluster which it was not. She added that the building proposed was actually taller than the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street and that therefore, from some angles, far from being a decline in levels as you move from the centre of the cluster outwards, this building would be another outlier. She went on to add concerns around the loss of retail, stating that she felt that if, as the report stated, there would be a significant loss of retail due to these proposals was regrettable. The Member went on to state that it would have been useful, within the Officers presentation, to see the results of both the daylight/sunlight assessment as well as the wind results and clarification around what the real effect of this proposal would be on wind levels compared to what they were at present. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that the height of the building had been the subject of extensive negotiations and had been negotiated downwards because of the view from Fleet Street where it may well have potentially impacted. He went on to report that the height had been assessed from a vast number of views where, as the Member noted, it would appear to be more of an outlier at this point in time in the cluster’s development as opposed to subsumed within the Cluster. Officers were of the view that the height of the building now proposed was appropriate. Members were reminded that the height of 1 Undershaft is 305 meters, this proposal was for a 165-metre building.
In terms of the daylight/sunlight information, Officers reported that this had been distributed to the Committee as part of the addendums. With regard to wind conditions, Officers reported that this was a very good scheme, leading to no issues with the conditions in line with the City Corporation’s guidelines. It was noted that a number of mitigating features such as the saplings were also to be implemented.
On the point around loss of retail, Officers reported that this had been the subject of much discussion but it was felt that this was a balanced approach in view of the size of the reception area needed for a building of this size and in view of the retail offer to be introduced at level 10 which would help to enliven the 10th floor terrace. Officers added that they had also looked at the retail provision onto the new open space and considered the strength of the retail market in that area at present and had come to the conclusion that there was not sufficient space within the building as it was designed to deliver significantly more retail space and also retain the new open space benefit that the proposals offered.
Another Member spoke to state that he was very impressed by this application and that it was very clear, in his view, that the benefits significantly outweigh any minor harm. He then questioned the boiler Efflux velocities, referred to within paragraph 288 of the report, and why these were significantly below the City’s minimum requirements. He asked what the implications of this was, whether it was the case that we could not have very tall chimneys and whether that meant that the public could be exposed to harmful emissions. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that this was a very technical point which he would have to defer to colleagues in Environmental Health. However, he stated that provision of flues would not make a difference as there was a negligible impact on air quality.
A Member questioned whether there had been any assessment as to whether the removal of 1 or 2 storeys from these proposals would have had a significant impact in terms of daylight/sunlight for 120 Fenchurch Street. She went on to comment on the lifecycle of the building and that the argument of requiring more office space may be a short to medium-term need rather than longer-term and so wouldn’t be reflected in a building not being built/completed for some years.
The Member went on to note that the report highlighted that carbon offsetting would be secured through the Section 106 offset and wanted to clarify whether the offsetting was just for the buildings emissions during the lifetime of the building and didn’t include the whole-life carbon produced in the demolition and reconstruction process. She added that she also noted in the report that it stated that every effort should be made to achieve the remaining credits in the energy category and questioned how this might be made a requirement as opposed to a request. Finally, she questioned if the opening hours for the roof terrace of the new building could at least match those of 120 Fenchurch Street so as to preserve the public amenity in this way. She also questioned the City Corporation’s understanding of the public realm on the ground floor, noting that the applicant had already clarified that this area would not be gated.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reiterated that the scheme before Members today had been significantly amended with respect to the height of the building and also its width. He added that taking 1-2 storeys off of the height of the building would not make any discernible difference to the sunlight levels on to 120 Fenchurch Street.
In terms of public access on to the roof, Officers underlined that this was a much more enhanced offer/access arrangement than the one that was secured on 120 Fenchurch Street. This roof garden would therefore be open 7 days a week with closures on Christmas Day, Boxing Day and New Year’s Day only. Opening hours would be from 10am-7pm or to nautical dusk, whichever was the later. In addition, this building has capacity for 350 people at level ten, whilst the capacity at 120 Fenchurch Street was 207, both borne out by fire and other safety issues.
In terms of energy strategy, Members were informed that the addendum to the report set out the London Plan requirements (which were also the City’s Local Plan requirements) that 35% reductions in CO2 emissions are required with a condition also attached to ensure that this was secured. Currently, the proposals were designed to meet a 27% reduction, but Officers reported that the policy does allow for the remainder to be offset by carbon offsetting contribution which was also secured by a condition. The Member sought clarification as to whether this carbon offsetting contribution effectively got the building to carbon zero in terms of the emissions for the building during the life of the building and whether that did or did not include the carbon impact of the demolition and reconstruction. Officers responded to report that the 35% related only to the operation of the building and not the demolition or reconstruction.
The Deputy Chairman spoke to underline his support for what he referred to as a very imaginative and well designed proposal. He went on to suggest that the building, whilst not technically in the Cluster, would nestle well within the nearby tall buildings that were. He focused in on two major points in planning terms – firstly the urban greening which was significant and very much in line with the direction the City Corporation was trying to take its buildings and planning policies and secondly, the offering up of a 36 fold increase in public realm gain which was an outstanding win for the City where public realm was at a premium. He referred back to the point made by another Member earlier in the debate around the demand/need for office space in the City in a post COVID-19 environment, something which this organisation would no doubt return to debate at length in coming months but he added that this was not a planning consideration for today with demand or otherwise being a commercial matter that fell outside the remit of this Committee. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director commented that there was a danger of speculating too soon on any post-COVID trends at present and that Officers were in constant discussion on this point with the CPA and developers where there was no constant/consistent thread at present.
The Comptroller and City Solicitor commented that demand was referred to within the report in terms of the need to maintain a pipeline for expected employment requirements so that was therefore considered material as referenced in Policy. In terms of anything emerging post COVID-19 she reiterated other Officer’s points that any changes were speculative at present. She concluded by stating that the legal requirement is to give primacy to our policy which identifies anticipated demand and the importance of maintaining the status of the City as a leading business centre. This was therefore a primary consideration. If anything, evidence based was to emerge which would be material, this would be fed into any future decisions but, at present, it was too early to say with any certainty what trends would be emerging post COVID-19.
The Chief Commoner spoke in support of the proposals which he felt made the Walkie Talkie building at 20 Fenchurch Street appear less stark/severe in this part of the City alongside all of the other positives articulated by Members thus far.
A Member commented that he very much welcomed the additional open space provided by the proposals although he stated that he was less pleased to not see any linkage made between the additional open space being provided to the additional city population that results from this building. This led him to question as to what this additional population would be, stating that the only reference within the report appeared to be to maximum capacity of the building but not how this related to the maximum capacity of the former buildings.
Secondly, on the issue of height, he recognised that a modest change to the height of the proposed building would not make a significant difference to the overshadowing of 120 Fenchurch Street but was not so clear as to whether a modest change in height would have made a difference to the viewing point from the scaffold inside the Tower of London. He added that this appeared to be the first ever breaching of the roofline of the Chapel Royal by a building as a result of its height and its vicinity to the Tower of London which seemed to be a significant precedent. He commented that he felt that the report was a little dismissive of the reservations of Historic England who were an independent body. Finally, he commented on the stopping up of Star Alley, noting that the report stated that the proposal of the developers to stop up the whole of Star Alley might conflict with policy but that there might then be some countervailing public benefits – he questioned what those were and stated that this needed to be better understood before a decision could be reached today.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that pedestrian flows/analysis was subject to rigorous and thorough assessment both in terms of the existing situation and the schemes already granted permission thus providing a good grasp of the future pressures on the pavement. The pedestrian modelling informed the large splay to facilitate entrances from Fenchurch Street Station, through the site and underneath 120 Fenchurch Street to the Cluster. The widening of the footway on Fenchurch Street was also in response to the forecast increase in population/pedestrian footfall here. In terms of this being the first building to breach views from the scaffold site and the silhouette of the church, Officers did not agree that this was the case. They commented that the presentation had depicted two breaches – the 1 Undershaft tower and 22 Bishopsgate. Officer reemphasised that this was a very kinetic view.
With regard to Historic England, Officers reported that they had a very constructive liaison with them on these proposals and had met with them to discuss the concerns they had. They hoped that most Members felt that the need to address and balance those concerns had been covered adequately in the report.
On the point of stopping up, the Comptroller and City Solicitor responded to reassure Members that there was no attempt to pre-empt anything in paragraph 250 of the report - it was simply intended to flag up a possible application and not to seek any in principle decision on this matter which would need to be decided if and when such an application was received. It was noted that there was a recommendation in reference to in principle stopping up but that that referred only to land that there is going to be built structure located on and did not therefore apply to the area of Star Alley that was not going to be built on.
Another Member spoke to share the concerns of earlier speakers regarding the height of the building, he added that he had been persuaded by the response of Officers on both daylight/sunlight and wind condition impact that height was probably appropriate in both of those respects, however, he went on to outline concerns for the future in terms of creating an outlier high rise building on the edge of the City cluster and its impact on sightlines from the Tower of London. He sought reassurances that this would not be an increasing trend and set any unwelcome precedent. Officers responded by stating that they had done a very complex three dimensional city modelling to understand what the scope for growth in the cluster is and this was absolutely informed by views from the Tower of London and views of St Paul’s and so on. The results of this were also beginning to emerge in the new City Plan 2036 where there were two areas identified where there was potential for an expansion to the cluster. Members were further reassured that Officers had never approached this scheme in isolation and had never viewed it as an outlier. They were very conscious that there were other schemes coming forward on the western end of Fenchurch Street Avenue which will contextualise this proposal and provide a bigger picture/vision for this part of the Square Mile.
A Member spoke to comment that he was of the opinion that this Committee had made a huge error in approving the Walkie Talkie building a decade ago given that it was an errant and dominant structure. He added that he feared that approving these proposals for another very tall building would compound that error and cause the designated cluster area, within which this site did not fall, to creep southwards. He noted that some previous speakers had referred to these proposals as ‘filling in’ the space between the actual cluster and the Walkie Talkie building and that this would be desirable, but he argued that this was contrary to policy. He added that a particular consequence of this ‘filling in’ would be a very serious and adverse effect on certain views from the Tower of London including one which does appear in the HIA but was not shown in today’s presentation – the view from the inner wall, east of Devereaux Tower where the proposed building looked uncomfortably close. He concluded by stating that if this Committee were to continue to approve applications to infill spaces between errant buildings, they would creep increasing closer to the World Heritage Site of the Tower of London. He agreed with the fact that he did not feel that the Committee report gave due weight to a very important issue but gave too much weight to fairly minor issues – whilst the church tower and the crypt were of historical interest they were not of the same importance as the Tower of London – and he therefore had grave reservations about this application.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director underlined that these proposals were not contrary to policy and highlighted that the policy was worded to ensure flexibility and not be over prescriptive There were sites within the cluster that were inappropriate for tall buildings and there were sites around the periphery of the cluster which could be appropriate for tall buildings. Each site was reliant on a very robust and comprehensive assessment which had been carried out in this instance and it was considered that there was justification and rationale for a building of this height at this location.
Another Member, in contrast to the previous speaker, reminded the Committee that the origins of the cluster were to meet the growing demands placed on the City in previous decades. He stated that he very much supported the scheme today and viewed it as a great contribution to improving and developing the office needs of the City in general. He added, however, that he was concerned about the impact of the building on the roof garden at 120 Fenchurch Street which was unavoidable and regrettable. He stated that it should be made clear to other developers going forward that creating roof spaces is to create open spaces for the public to enhance the City’s public open space offer and not to produce protected views of the River or other buildings in the immediate surroundings.
A Member commented that some of the wind mitigation measures proposed were living elements such as hedges and trees and questioned whether their maintenance would be perpetually conditioned. He went on to commend Officers on this application, stating that some Members had seen an earlier iteration of this that proposed a taller and more intrusive scheme. He added that he felt that this was now a very well thought out proposal, particularly in terms of the treatment of the tower and the crypt at this site. He commented that he, Officers and the Committee took quite seriously the significance of the Tower of London and views from it but, on balance, this scheme did not cause significant harm to those. He continued to state that there had already been some approved but not yet built projects that did slightly breach views in a static view. Finally, he stated that he was a little surprised that 35% reduction in emissions could not be achieved without offsetting.
Officers responded to comment that the green elements, as mentioned, would have a beneficial impact on wind but are not required to mitigate unacceptable wind conditions. He added that there were conditions attached to the maintenance of all of the green infrastructure/elements of the scheme. Members were informed that the saplings were actually solid structures with trailing plants on them.
A Member commented that this application was within her Ward. She highlighted that the report stated that virtually no major development proposal is completely compliant with all policies and that, therefore, in arriving at a decision, Members had to balance everything. She added that she was quite struck by the design of this new scheme which took the theme of both office and retail use forward for the future whilst also, for the first time, providing really accessible public open space in this part of Fenchurch Street. She commented that Star Alley was a very small cut through at present which was not very well kept and to be able to open up that vista for people to walk straight through from Mark Lane into Fenchurch Street would, in her view, be extremely beneficial. She was also pleased to see the heritage on this site being given the respect it deserves by providing protection and enhancement for this. In terms of the perceived impact of the Tower of London, the Member commented that she had previously spoken out at this Committee against designs and schemes that impacted on the scaffold site but was confident that these proposals, on balance and given the design of the building, the public accessibility and public realm elements/widening of the pavements on Fenchurch Street which were so needed, would futureproof this corner of her Ward.
A final Member spoke to congratulate the applicant on the lengths that they had clearly gone to on matters of strategy and outline to meet our policies. He commented particularly on the increase in public realm. He added that his personal view was that the infilling of the gap between the Walkie Talkie and the cluster improved matters.
The Committee then proceeded to vote on the three different recommendations before them. The vote was conducted by rollcall led by the Town Clerk with those Members present and eligible to vote asked to also confirm that they had been present for and able to hear the entirety of this item.
Votes were cast as follows: IN FAVOUR – 29 votes
OPPOSED – 0 votes
There was 1 abstention.
RESOLVED – That:
1. planning permission be granted for the above proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule subject to:
a) planning obligations and other agreements being entered into under Section 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 and Section 278 of the Highway Act 1980 in respect of those matters set out in the report, the decision notice not to be issued until the Section 106 obligations have been executed and;
2. Members agree in principle that the land affected by the proposal which is
currently public highway and land over which the public have right of access
(comprising small areas of Fenchurch Street, Mark Lane, Mincing Lane and
Star Alley that would be built upon if the development were implemented) may
be stopped up to enable the development to proceed and, upon receipt of the
formal application, officers be instructed to proceed with arrangements for
advertising and making of a Stopping-up Order for the various areas under the
delegation arrangements approved by the Court of Common Council; and
3. Listed building consent be granted for the dismantling, relocation and reconstruction of the Grade II listed Lambe’s Chapel Crypt to basement level one including the provision of public access and associated exhibition (Sui Generis) in accordance with the details set out on the attached schedule and;
4. Listed building consent be granted for alterations to and conservation of the Grade I listed tower of All Hallows Staining in accordance with the details set out on the attached schedule.
Publication date: 22/05/2020
Date of decision: 14/05/2020
Decided at meeting: 14/05/2020 - Planning and Transportation Committee