Report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director.
The Committee considered a report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director relative to the appropriateness of the City Corporation’s current approach to daylight and sunlight and whether there would be a case for having Guidelines more specific to the City setting.
A sheet detailing further Government guidelines issued since the report was prepared was tabled. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director highlighted that this also included reference to the urban context.
The Committee were reminded that this matter had been brought forward at the request of Members who had questioned whether the City should look to produce its own guidelines around daylight and sunlight. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director referred to recent training offered to the Committee on the issue of Daylight and Sunlight and the fact that this had highlighted the number of different methods of assessment that may currently be used. She went on to state that the tools available to the organisation and the industry were changing quite rapidly. She concluded that she was therefore of the view that the policy currently in the Local Plan remained fit for purpose. It was, however, suggested that further guidance might be produced on how the City implements the current policy. It was proposed that this guidance be worked up and be brought back to this Committee in the Autumn.
A Member referenced a number of previous planning applications that had been considered by the Committee where BRE guidelines had been applied but where it was suggested that these guidelines and certain breeches of daylight and sunlight could be ignored. He went on to question whether computer generated images could be used for future applications that had any such implications to clearly demonstrate any loss of daylight and sunlight as well as radiance. He also suggested that the production of further guidelines around this should be added to the Committee’s list of Outstanding Actions.
A Member questioned whether the production of new BRE guidance, expected to be in place by early 2020 was subject to funding going forward. He also questioned whether the new guidelines would be looking at related maters such as radiance. The Chief Planning Officer confirmed that radiance was increasingly being used as a tool. However, whether it could be absolutely required was questionable given that it would require access to affected residences to analyse and that matters such as the internal décor of these residences was relevant.
Another Member expressed the view that the tone of the report was too fatalistic. He highlighted that this was an environmental issue and that improvements should therefore be sought. He went on to state that he felt that any future guidelines should contain the aspiration that future applications coming before the Committee should seek to be, at the least, ‘net neutral’ in terms of any loss of daylight and sunlight as well as sky visibility. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director responded that, this was a difficult balance to strike in terms of enabling development and also protecting daylight and sunlight. She added that, at present, a worsening of up to 20% was considered as acceptable/not noticeable.
Another Member stated that he was in agreement with the report and its recommendations. He added that this was an issue that clearly affected certain developments and that a balance needed to be struck so that the Committee were not setting targets that were likely to adversely affect what were principally commercial developments. He went on to refer to climate change and the fact that, going forward, those residential units that enjoyed the most daylight and sunlight would also be prone to overheating quicker.
A Member referenced the detail under the Committee’s list of Outstanding Actions at Item 4 which called for details as to how Officers would look to create alternative guidelines alongside timescales and any legal implications. He stated that this was not covered within the report before Members today and agreed with the view that this did not go far enough. He questioned when a further report on the matter would be brought to the Committee.
A Member questioned whether glare which could prove a problem for those living opposite large office buildings was also currently covered and what protections existed in this respect. She highlighted that it was often not possible to detect problems related to this until buildings were erected. The Chief Planning Office and Development Director reported that glare had become an increasing issue over the past 20 years and was now explored at pre-application stage. She added that there was often a condition agreement applied with regard to glare and mitigation measures.
A Member highlighted that there was reference to environmental factors within the City’s current policies where it was highlighted that consideration should be given to how the design of tall buildings can assist with the dispersal of air pollution. She questioned whether consolidation/timed deliveries might also usefully be referenced here so as to ensure a wholistic approach. She went on to state that she understood that buildings were previously built around a white tiled centre core which helped with light reflection and questioned whether this was still the practice.
Another Member argued that more specific boundaries and robust definitions of ‘noticeable’ and ‘unacceptable’ levels of loss of daylight and sunlight were needed going forward. She was of the view that this might otherwise be the subject of ‘creep’. She added that good design was also, in her view, crucial and mentioned that the GLA were currently looking in more detail at this recommending the installation of bow windows for example where appropriate. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director stated that, whilst she understood Members’ frustrations around this, it was difficult to come up with absolutely clear guidelines with all applications requiring consideration on a case by case basis.
A Member commented that she would be interested to understand the number of applications received that were not approved due to daylight and sunlight impact. She also questioned whether there was currently any follow up to ascertain that acceptable levels had been maintained with those that had been approved despite having an impact. She concluded by suggesting that the production of any guidelines by the City Corporation would be best timed to align with the production of the new BRE guidelines.
The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reiterated that the matter was at a time of flex with the BRE currently looking at this and a different set of measures. She added that she believed that these were likely to be more onerous than the present guidelines but that a degree of flexibility would still, nevertheless, have to be maintained. She went on to refer to the inevitable tension between delivering high quantities of urban housing and development whilst protecting light.
A Member referenced the conflict between quality and quantity and state that he was firmly of the view that the time had come to be more serious about quality. He asked that Officers reflect on the views expressed by the Committee today and return with a set of improved and more qualitatively driven set of proposals.
Another Member disagreed with the view that the preparation of the City’s own guidelines should await the outcome of the new BRE guidelines. He suggested that there should be no further delay and that the City’s own guidelines could be amended, if necessary, once the new BRE guidelines emerged. Another Member disagreed with this and suggested that the organisation keep watch on the emerging BRE guidelines which would take, at most, 6 months to be published. He added that any report to this Committee in the Autumn could update on the BRE’s movement on this. A second Member also agreed that, given the current climate and limited resources, updating the City’s own guidelines ahead of the BRE review would not be the best use of Officer time.
A Member asked that, when the next report was presented to Committee, it contain details of what impact being more aspirational in this field was likely to have on future planning applications.
A Member questioned if Officers were aware of what the BRE changes were likely to propose in relation to high density areas and the City of London specifically and what this was expected to add. He went on to question whether the City were making representations to the BRE on this to help inform their review and how Officers were getting across those challenges specific to the City on this. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director confirmed that Officers were in discussion with the BRE but underlined that standards were national and, in this case, were directed from Europe. She added that the London Borough of Kensington and Chelsea was frequently cited as an example of an area where, despite high house prices, residents often experience lower levels of daylight and sunlight.
A Member reiterated the view that applicants should be requested to provide radiance CGI’s with any relevant applications with immediate effect. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director stated that she could seek this from applicants going forward although it could not be insisted upon.
RESOLVED – That, Members note the report and request that Officers produce a future report responding more specifically to the points raised at this meeting.