Thames Riverside Walkway
The Chief Commoner raised a question on the now long overdue completion of the riverside walkway in the Ward of Queenhithe and commented that he understood that there was now an issue regarding funding as TfL had had to curtail capital spending and could therefore no longer contribute in the way originally anticipated. He asked if the City Corporation had any alternative sources of funding to now ensure that this work was completed before the end of the calendar year. The Director of the Built Environment commented that she too had been disappointed to learn of this problem with regard to funding and recognised that the completion of the walkway was now long overdue with the works being entirely consistent with the ambition of the City to create additional pedestrian space. Whilst the Director was not able to make any promises at this stage, she undertook to explore every possible avenue of funding for the completion of this project.
A Member commented that it had come to her attention that a Member led consultation regarding the installation of a running track on some of the City Corporation’s pavements had led to some confusion among City communities. Some were of the view that this consultation was being carried out by the City Corporation and the Member expressed concern that this was the impression created by the website set up by the Member leading on this exercise. The Member went on to ask if the Chair would therefore make it clear, in this public forum, that the consultation for this project had not been approved or even considered by any City Corporation Committee and that the Member calling for this did so in no official capacity and was merely an individual canvassing for views on his own initiative. The Chair responded to confirm that whilst this matter had been discussed previously at this Committee, they were not dealing with anything officially in this regard. A Member commented that she had asked Officers of the City Corporation’s Health and Wellbeing Board to look at the Sport’s Strategy and consider whether this initiative was something that could be incorporated here. She added that the consultation had obviously generated a lot of positive comments to date as well as confusion. Finally, she questioned whether this Committee might include reference within the Local Plan to the desirability of a rooftop running track on certain developments coming forward.
Golden Lane Estate
A Member reported that, on 21 August 2020, Historic England had added the Golden Lane Estate designated landscape to the register of parks and gardens of special historic interest in England and that the whole site was now listed at Grade II. This was in addition to the Estates Grade II and II* listing for each building and the specific landscape. The letter setting out the listing states that although the register in itself brings no additional statutory controls, the historic interest is established as a material planning consideration and the register provides the key means by which sites of special historic interest are identified. It drew attention to the fact that the sites included should receive special consideration if changes or proposals for development were being contemplated and Local Authorities were required to consult Historic England over any planning applications received which may affect sites graded by listed I or II* on the register. They were also required to consult the Gardens Trust on applications which may affect any site on the register regardless of grade. With all of this in mind, the Member asked whether the Chair could confirm that Officers in the Department of Built Environment would draw this additional listing to the attention of colleagues in the Department of Community and Children’s Services so that when those colleagues, acting on behalf of freeholder of Golden Lane Estate (the City Corporation) propose to carry out repairs to the hard and soft landscape will be aware of the need for such repairs to maintain the integrity of the materials and the design. The Member added that they should also be reminded of the need to make the appropriate applications and referrals before carrying out any work and that this should avoid the Corporation breaking the law as it had done recently when it installed unsuitable roof vents on Crescent House without consent.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that the relevant Department and other bodies had been notified of this development and that applications were being assessed in line with the significance set out in this designation. It was noted that this was also quite timely as, as the Committee were aware, a report on the character appraisal for Golden Lane would be brought forward in November and this would provide the opportunity to embed this.
The Tulip Planning Inquiry
A Member commented that she understood that the inquiry would now be held in November 2020. She reported that when the arrangements for this had originally been considered, Members had been informed that there would not be sufficient space within the Guildhall to host this however, with the freeing up of various large meeting spaces such as the Great Hall and Livery Hall as a result of COVID-19, she questioned whether this might now be revisited.
The Chair reported that he was aware that the Town Clerk’s Department alongside others were currently working to identify space within Guildhall from which to host hybrid meetings as of next week and that some Members had pushed hard to seek a return to the Livery Hall for meetings of this Committee given that it could accommodate a large number of attendees. The Deputy Chairman highlighted that he intended to put forward a question at the Court of Common Council later this week on the return to use of larger meeting spaces within Guildhall as soon as possible.
The Town Clerk reported that the Chamberlain’s Department were leading on a project to ensure that all Committee Rooms and larger meeting spaces such as the Livery Hall were equipped with the correct IT equipment to allow for hybrid meetings and that this was currently running behind schedule. At present, this project was yet to be completed. Members were also reminded that, regardless of room capacity, social distancing would still need to be abided by throughout the Guildhall meaning that fewer attendees could be accommodated. The Chair asked that the strength of feeling from this Committee and its desire to return to physical meetings as soon as possible be relayed.
A Member commented that she had previously served on the Establishment Committee and that past staff surveys had previously indicated that a vast majority of Officers favoured the flexibility of being able to work from home and that this should therefore be borne in mind. The Chair clarified that there were many DBE Officers now present in the City and, indeed, those who had considered to attend throughout for essential work.
With regard to the Inquiry specifically, the Chair commented that he personally felt it was undesirable to take public space out of action for an extended period of time but asked that Officers look into the possibility of hosting this at the Guildhall. Officers confirmed that the space was likely to be required over a period of six weeks and would involve multiple bookings.
A Member referred to the pavement extension at Bank Junction, in particular on Princes Street, highlighting that it was a very serious trip hazard with paving stones that were not of the usual flat level installed. Officers undertook to examine this when on site in the City tomorrow and to respond to the Member directly on these concerns.
A Member reported that very large tree had been installed at 22 Bishopsgate and that these were already hitting the canopy. She therefore questioned whether there would be problems around their future growth in this location.
Return to Work
A Member reported that many SME’s within his own Ward and across the Square Mile were extremely concerned about trade and survival through the Autumn and Winter months. He suggested that the City Corporation should be leading by example in terms of encouraging Officers and Members back to work. He went on to question whether, in this vein, the City Corporation were making representations to TfL regarding the reopening of the Waterloo and City Line given that this was a major conduit into the City. The Chair commented that this issue had been raised with him recently and that, as far as he was concerned, TfL and National Rail ought to be returning to normal service. He added that he and the Chair of the Policy and Resources Committee had written to the Secretary of State for Transport on this matter approximately six weeks ago with others such as the City Property Association also following suit. He agreed that it was part of the City Corporation’s civic duty to be returning to work at this stage. The former Deputy Chairman added that he had raised the reopening of the Waterloo and City Line at a meeting earlier this morning with the All-Party Parliamentary Group for London and they had promised to lobby on this as had the MP for the City of London. He agreed that this was of vital importance.