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Inner Temple Garden & Car Park Inner Temple London EC4Y 7HL

Report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director.

 

Minutes:

Deputy Alistair Moss (Deputy Chairman) rejoined the meeting.

 

The Committee considered a report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director seeking approval for the erection of two temporary buildings for a period of 22 months to facilitate the development proposed under 17/00077/FULMAJ (one located within the Inner Temple Garden (1100sq.m GEA) and one located within the Inner Temple Car Park (770sq.m GEA) to provide temporary accommodation for the displaced Treasury Building, Inner Temple Hall and Library functions (Sui Generis use comprising Offices, Education and Training, Hall and Library relating to the Bar and Inner Temple). Associated works to include the dismantling, storage and re-erection of one listed and one unlisted gas lamp and plinth and the provision of a temporary substation and creation of a service compound.

 

William Upton declared a non-pecuniary interest in that he was a Member of Inner Temple and a tenant at Chambers there. He added that he intended to speak and vote on the matter.

 

The Senior Planning Officer presented the application. She highlighted that the garden here was a highly valued public amenity. She underlined that, Officers would be in a position to recommend the application for approval if the proposed carpark temporary structure had been smaller and situated further away from the listed buildings.

 

The Chairman invited the registered objectors to address the Committee, reminding them that they had a total of ten minutes between them to do so. He also drew Members attention to a written objection from Dr. Malecka which had been tabled.

 

Lord Lloyd of Berwick addressed the Committee, informing Members of the long history of this application. He stated that despite the Inn’s Surveyor writing to all in November 2018 to suggest that it was essential to have the proposed temporary buildings in place, if today’s application were to be refused, the proposed building works could still proceed as alternative plans were in place.

 

Lord Lloyd went on to draw Members’ attention to two photographs which were submitted alongside his written representation and were shown to Members on the display screen. He commented that these photographs clearly depicted the level of usage of the public gardens. He added that, whilst the temporary buildings were only proposed to be in place for 22 months, their removal would require damage repair to the grass area and the public would therefore likely lose closer to three years of access to the gardens.

 

Nicholas Asprey concurred with thee points and went on to question the need/benefit of these temporary structures. He added that these appeared to be a convenience rather than a must and that there was no evidence to show what action the Inn had taken to obtain alternative accommodation for their activities.

 

Finally, Robert McCracken referred to the gardens and surrounding area as an oasis of calm. He commented that Kings Bench Walk was popular amongst tourists and film makers and that any work in the gardens could also have a detrimental effect on local wildlife.

 

The Chairman thanked the objectors for their presentation to Committee and invited questions from Members.

 

A Member referred to the written representation from Dr. Malecka (tabled) and asked the objectors present if they could confirm the assertion within the written representation that, on the 3rd December, the Inn had been informed that, should this application fail, agreements were in place elsewhere to ensure continuity of the work of the offices, education and training, hall and library during any building works. Mr Asprey confirmed that this was the case and suggested that it was something that the Committee should perhaps question further with the applicant. 

 

The Chairman invited those speaking in favour of the applicant to address the Committee.

 

The Right Honourable Dame Elizabeth Gloster DBE took the opportunity to stress to Members that the application was extremely important to the Inner Temple with the public benefit of permitting the application clearly outweighing any temporary harm. She went on to state that the Officer recommendation to refuse the application was flawed in that it demonstrated a misunderstanding of the problems that would be faced should these activities be taken off site for a period of almost two years.

 

Dame Gloster stated that there were no firm agreements in place for all of the Inn’s activities for this interim period. What had been agreed was provision for just 22 large events to be held elsewhere as the proposed temporary structures would not provide sufficient space for these. She clarified that contingency plans were in place as this was the responsible thing to do and went on to assert that Dr Malecka’s interpretation of what had been reported to benchers at the meeting on 3rd December was therefore wrong.

 

Dame Gloster went on to state that the disruption to the Inn’s activities should these need to be taken off site would be huge. An off-site library would mean that training would be dispersed which would have a particularly adverse impact on both existing and aspiring barristers and, ultimately, the contribution that the Inn makes to ensuring that the City continues to provide world class legal services.

 

Miss Patricia Robertson QC concurred with these points and stated that the benefits of granting this application outweighed any temporary and entirely reversible harm. She referred to the application as an emotive issue and recognised that there were still dissenters in the Inner Temple. She stated, however, that the displacement of activities elsewhere would affect communal life and could have a permanent effect if students chose, as a result of this, to attend other Inns.

 

With regard to the garden, Miss Robertson stated that no irreversible harm would be caused here. She added that the gardens were a private space with no right of way allowed for public access and that only a portion of the lawn would be occupied by the proposed temporary structure.

 

The Chairman thanked those speaking on behalf of the applicant for their presentation to Committee and invited questions from Members.

 

A Member stated that he found it hard to believe that there were no alternatives off site for these activities and asked that Dame Gloster explain further. Dame Gloster explained that, at present, students could come to the Treasury and all be together for both training and networking purposes. Catering was also available on site. If these activites were to be displaced, there would no longer be any synergy of Education/Training or of people/staff. Barristers who currently volunteered to provide training would also no longer be on hand. With regard to the library, Dame Gloster questioned whether suitable accommodation could be found elsewhere and mentioned concerns around the loading and unloading of material as well as disabled access. All in all, the displacement would lead to a loss of cohesion and collegiality for a period of almost two years. Long-term, this would also impact upon the recruitment programme.

 

A Member questioned the need for a structure in the garden and asked whether more of the carpark area might be used instead. Miss Robertson stated that she too had initially posed this question. The space that would be occupied in the carpark was, however, rather large and would pose issues around access and the storing or materials.

 

A Member questioned the impact that the servicing of the temporary buildings would have on the site and whether this had been taken in to consideration. Dame Gloster confirmed that this had been assessed and it had been concluded that this would result in no net change. A lightweight, temporary track would be in place across the lawn for deliveries and a shallow trench would also be required for utility connections and rainwater drainage. The Senior Planning Officer added that servicing and deliveries were referenced within the report and clarified that deliveries for the temporary structures would continue to access

the Inner Temple via Tudor Street Gate.

 

A Member commented that, when he had been a trainee barrister, activities never used to be held on one site. He asserted that this was therefore a preference and a convenience as opposed to a must given that the Inn would not stop functioning should the application be refused. Dame Gloster responded that things had changed with students expecting and having been provided for many years now with on site educational activities/resources. She stressed the need for efficient, state of the art educational facilities on site which included the library, IT facilities and volunteers on hand to help deliver training.

 

A Member referred to a previous debate at this Committee on the library building and questioned whether parallels could be drawn here. Dame Gloster stated that there were similar considerations but that these were not necessarily the same. The advantages to this scheme were parallel. She reiterated that any suggested harm to the gardens and views would be temporary.

 

The Chairman asked that Members move to now debate the application.

 

A Member stated that he was minded to agree with the Officer recommendation to refuse the application. He added that he felt it was apparent that the applicant had not done enough to prove that these activities could not be successfully carried out elsewhere.

 

Another Member stated that there was clearly a need for balance here in terms of harm and public benefit. He reported that he had received representations from residents based in King’s Bench Walk and intended to relay these to the Committee. Firstly, the gardens were private and only opened voluntarily to the public for 2.5 hours every afternoon. There were also occasions on which a temporary structure was in place here to hold private events in the Summer months. On these occasions the remainder of the gardens provided sufficient space for the public to enjoy. The Senior Planning Officer confirmed that this was a temporary, summer, marquee which was erected under permitted development.

 

With regard to educational activities, the Inn was a collegiate teaching institution and, whilst alternative accommodation had been suggested (including Middle Temple and the Royal Courts of Justice out of hours), this would lead to the teaching offer being disjointed.

 

A Member commented that the gardens could be easily repaired after a period of 22 months and that any such repair of replacement may actually enhance and improve the area long term. He was convinced that any temporary harm caused here was preferable to displacing the Inn’s educational activities.

 

A Member questioned how the Treasurer had failed to persuade the Inn of the benefits of these temporary structures and why it had therefore fallen to this Committee to resolve what should have been a domestic matter.

 

Another Member agreed with this point. He added that condition 17 of the permanent development prohibited the use of the Inner Temple Garden for temporary structures and that the present application clearly undermines the basis of this condition. He referred to the need to increase public access to open spaces across the City and stated that he felt it was unnecessary to propose the use of the gardens for this purpose. Failing to make greater use of the carpark for this means was a missed opportunity.

 

At this point, the Chairman sought approval from Committee Members to continue the meeting beyond two hours from the appointed time for the start of the meeting, in accordance with Standing Order 40, and this was agreed.

 

A Member stated that she was concerned about the assertion within the report that consultation on the scheme had been very selective. She went on to refer to the point made within one of the written objections received that it was for the developer to make arrangements for its staff during the development of the Treasury Building. In the apparent absence of this, it was now felt that the planning authority were, indeed, being asked to bail out the developer.

 

The Senior Planning Officer clarified that the scheme had been advertised sufficiently on the site and that two separate rounds of consultation had also taken place.

 

Members proceeded to vote on the application before them with votes cast as follows:

 

·         Refuse Planning Permission           -           15 Votes

·         Grant Planning Permission             -           4 Votes

·         Abstentions                                       -           1

 

RESOLVED – That planning permission be refused for the proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule.

 

 

 

Supporting documents:

 


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