Report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director.
The Committee considered a report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director regarding 150 Aldersgate Street, 3-4 Bartholomew Place, London EC1A, specifically:
(i) Demolition of roof top plant enclosure, rear service ramp and removal of cladding to facilitate the refurbishment, recladding and extension of the existing Office (Class B1 (a)) building at 150 Aldersgate Street to create a basement, ground plus nine storey building, including rear and roof top extensions, infill extensions to the rear courtyard (ground plus two storeys) to link with 3-4 Bartholomew Place;
(ii) A part change of use at ground floor from Office (Class B1) to Café (Class A1).
(iii) Erection of a new building Office (Class B1 (a) t 3-4 Bartholomew Place comprised of basement, ground plus three storeys;
(iv) The amalgamation of the two buildings;
(v) The creation of new accessible and inaccessible terraces, green roofs, hard and soft landscaping, and creation of external courtyards;
(vi) Upgrade works to Braidwood Passage, including new lighting; and
(vii) Reconfiguration of the loading bay and associated works.
The Town Clerk drew Members’ attention to the fact that a supplementary document pack containing additional background papers had also been circulated and published yesterday afternoon, as had an additional letter of representation from DLA Piper and a response to this representation from Gerald Eve.
Officers presented the application to Members, reporting that it involved onto Cloth Street, an 8 storey post-modernist office building fronting onto Aldersgate Street, but also with faces onto Cloth Street, Half Moon Court and Bartholomew Place, with the site sitting opposite the Barbican and Golden Lane Estate Conservation Area and only the rearmost part of the site, formerly occupied by a commercial building at 3-4 Bartholomew Place, lying within the Smithfield Conservation Area. Members were informed that the surrounding area was mixed in character with the Barbican to the east and a mixture of commercial and residential uses to the west.
The Committee were informed that the application sought permission for the refurbishment and extension of the existing building, including infill extensions to the rear to provide grade a office floor space increasing from 11,000 square metres to 17,000 square metres together with a retail unit at ground floor level. Members were informed that 123 objections were received to the original consultation with the majority of these coming from Barbican residents but also from residents of Bartholomew Close and some surrounding streets. The majority of these objections related to the scale of the development in its context, the impact on residential amenity in terms of daylight/sunlight and overlooking and an increase in footfall from those using Bartholomew Place entrance. A letter of support had also been received and both Historic England and the City Heritage Society have stated no objection to the proposal. It was also highlighted that the owner of 9 Newbury Street, adjoining the site, had now withdrawn their objection, as detailed within the addendum report and that a further letter in support of the scheme had also been received from the Chief Executive of Helical, the developers of Barts Square, although it was noted that they were questioning the benefits of extensive urban greening. A letter of objection from the commercial owners of the adjacent building at 160 Aldersgate Street had also been separately circulated to the Committee yesterday and a response to this from the applicant had also been circulated ahead of this meeting. Officers stated that they were happy to share both of these documents on screen at the conclusion of their presentation to afford Members the opportunity to read them both in full should they so wish. Officers summarised by reporting that the grounds for objection in the letter circulated yesterday related to a loss of daylight, outlook and privacy in the commercial building at 160 Aldersgate Street. It was reported that, whilst Local Plan policies within BRE guidance refer to protecting residential amenity and not existing office buildings, it acknowledged that any development should have regard to its surroundings. In this case, the office floor space in question was dual aspect and the proposed additional floors adjacent to its flank elevation would not prevent the beneficial use of this commercial floorspace. Furthermore, given that the recent extension to the building contains windows adjacent to its boundary, it could be considered a bad neighbour and therefore there would be some expectation of a similar development on the adjacent site which was what was being presented to Members today. With regard to overlooking, Officers reported that the close proximity of office buildings was common in the City and such mutual overlooking between commercial premises was therefore considered acceptable.
Officers went on to report that the principle of the scheme, providing Grade A office floorspace, was strongly supported together with an active frontage to compliment and serve this part of the City. Members were shown images of proposed floorplans at Ground floor, first floor, second floor, third floor, sixth floor and eighth floor.
Officers went on to state that, as the proposal was for a refurbishment and extension scheme, it embodied circular economy principles including commitments to a pre-demolition audit to identify the potential for the reuse and recycling of existing on site materials as well as an end of life strategy to ensure that the building structure, materials and services can be reused at the end of the building’s life. In relation to the architecture of the proposal, it had been designed to respond to the varied character and context surrounding the site. The Aldersgate Street frontage plans would revitalise a dated and inward facing building using vertical fins to provide depth and articulation to the façade whilst also having the practical benefit of providing solar shading and restricting overlooking. The fins would comprise stone beads providing a visual richness to the façade and reflecting the overall design concept of weaving a textiles motif into the fabric of the building responding to the historic association of the site and the surroundings with the textile industry.
Next, Members were shown images of the existing and proposed street level view of the building at ground floor from Aldersgate Street. Officers commented that this would be significantly improved by providing level access and an active frontage together with significant greening, transforming the existing, inward looking, lifeless frontage. The pedestrian route of Braidwood Passage would also be enhanced with the provision of active frontage, an art wall and woven mesh edge to improve visual permeability and enhance its Culture Mile context. Members were shown images of the existing and proposed view looking from Cloth Street back to Aldersgate to illustrate these points.
With reference to the proposed additional height of the building, it was highlighted that this would match the height of 160 Aldersgate Street and provide a successful transition to the
development at Long Lane, creating a natural flow and satisfactory transition.
Members were shown an illustration of the existing rear elevation of the building facing onto Smithfield and also an illustration of the proposed development from this same aspect which depicted a more animated façade incorporating a series of set backs and significant greening as well as outside space for office users. Images of the view looking down Cloth Street from Long Lane showed that the height of the proposed development would increase but Officers highlighted that it was considered to provide an improved determination of the vista from this site with the use of light coloured brick, extensive greening and an enhanced pedestrian route at the end of Cloth Street. Images depicting views from Bartholomew Close along Half Moon Court also depicted how the proposed development would provide an effective contextual design. The view of Bartholomew Place was also shown with the proposed scheme in place with a contextual design in keeping with this particular location. Overall, it was therefore considered that this proposal would deliver a high quality design and would make a positive contribution to the townscape of this part of the City, covering all facades.
With regard to residential amenity, Officers highlighted that a full daylight and sunlight assessment was submitted alongside the application. With particular reference to the Barbican, it was noted that a number of windows in Seddon House would experience a reduction of more than 20% but that all of the affected rooms (which were bedrooms and living rooms) had balconies above them. The BRE guidance notes that these balconies limit light from the sky such that even a small obstruction can have a disproportionate affect on daylight. In accordance with the guidance, the applicant had undertaken an additional assessment which showed that, without the balconies, the loss of light would be within BRE guidelines indicating that this was a significant factor in the loss of light. With regard to 10-30 Newbury Street, which currently contained serviced apartments, a loss of daylight to six windows which serve three living rooms was considered by BRE to be a minor adverse impact. One rooflight here would experience a greater reduction in sunlight however, the applicants mirror image assessment demonstrates that the impact would be significantly worse - indicating that a lot of sunlight outside the BRE guidelines may be expected given its location very close to the site boundary. 9 Newbury Street was currently an office use but did have an extension and planning permission for conversion to residential. The assessment here indicates that, following amendments to the scheme, the impact on windows would be minor to moderate and the owner had subsequently withdrawn their objection to the application. Finally, 10-12 Half Moon Court was currently a construction site with a new residential scheme being developed here. The impact of these proposals on a number of windows here would be major, albeit many would serve kitchens and bedrooms which would have low existing benchmarks values and therefore percentage losses would be disproportionate. Again, a mirror image assessment confirms that the adverse impact would be greater than the impact from the proposed development. Overall, it was therefore recognised that there will be some adverse impacts on a limited number of surrounding residential premises, but Local Plan policy and the BRE guidance state that the guidance should be interpreted flexibly in urban areas and it was therefore considered that the overall benefits of the scheme outweigh this harm and that the scheme sits comfortably within its urban context.
With regards to overlooking and privacy, it was recognised that there is already a degree of mutual overlooking between the existing building and those properties surrounding it. However, the new development had been designed to minimise this with the alignment of the fins on the front elevation restricting overlooking into residential properties opposite at Seddon House and Lauderdale Tower. Similarly, at the rear, extensive screening would be introduced to the proposed green roofs and terraces alongside extensive planting which would also assist in restricting any overlooking. It was, however, noted once again here that there was already a degree of mutual overlooking between the existing premises and surrounding properties.
In respect of light pollution, a condition was proposed requiring the approval of a lighting strategy which will set out both physical and management measures to ensure that the internal and external lighting did not result in undue light pollution with the applicants committing to a full study on this. With regard to pedestrian movements which had been raised in some of the objections received, the transport assessment submitted with the application concluded that the proposal would generate approximately 70 two-way pedestrian movements in the peak hour which was considered to be negligible and acceptable in respect of the number of pedestrians using the various streets in the nearby Smithfield area to the rear of the site. With regard to wider transportation issues, the removal of the onsite carpark and spaces was welcomed and the applicant had also agreed to servicing consolidation which would result in a 50% reduction in servicing vehicle movements which would also be prohibited during the peak pedestrian hours, representing a significant benefit. In terms of sustainability, the proposals would deliver a highly sustainable scheme, retaining 80% of the existing structure, achieving a minimum of BREEAM excellent rating and also resulting in a 43.5% reduction in carbon emissions, thereby exceeding the 35% policy requirements. The proposal would also achieve an urban greening factor of 0.59, almost doubling the policy requirement of 0.3, resulting in a very green building and brining with it all of the associated benefits of this such as biodiversity, sustainable urban drainage and improved air quality.
Offices concluded by stating that it was therefore felt that the proposal would deliver a high-quality development, providing Grade A office floorspace with attractive frontages and would also make a positive contribution to the townscape in this part of the City. It was therefore recommended that planning permission be granted.
The Chair thanked Officers for their presentation and asked that they now share on screen the DLA Piper representation that had not been included within the Committee papers as well as the Gerald Eve letter in response to this. He also asked that Officers summarise the main points within these documents. Officers stated that the key points raised by DLA Piper were around loss of amenity at 160 Aldersgate Street with images showing where the proposed development would sit in relation to the top floor of this commercial property where they suggested that views would be lost/blocked in rooms here. Officers paused to allow the meeting to view the images provided for themselves. Officers clarified that the proposed development was to the north of this adjoining property and that there would therefore be no loss of sunlight to the premises. The DLA Piper representation also referred to a loss of privacy due to mutual overlooking between offices.
The applicant had responded by providing images of this same top-floor conference room and responding to the concerns raised by DLA Piper. This image demonstrated that the window on the left-hand side was looking across the site in question with the and the window to the right looking out across the Barbican and that it was therefore dual aspect and well-lit even with the proposed development abutting that side of the building.
The Town Clerk introduced five registered objectors (Susan Cox, Dr Elizabeth Simpson, Susan Hoefling, Bernadette Skehan and Alderman Vincent Keaveny) and invited them each, in turn, to address the Committee.
Ms Cox began by stating that she was speaking on behalf of the residents of the Barbican Estate to object to the application. WMs Cox stated that, with no alterations to the design and height of the building, the resubmitted plans show a total lack of acknowledgement of residents concerns and that the proposed increase in height would have a major affect on virtually all residential amenity categories – not only a significant loss of daylight and sunlight but also light pollution, overlooking and noise and disturbance – factors clearly contrary to policies d 8) and h 3) of the draft Local Plan 2036. She went on to suggest that the proximity of the redevelopment to residential flats and the resulting loss of privacy could not be overstated, despite the limited attempts at mitigation by use of fins and that occupiers of the new development would be able to look directly into many Barbican flats facing Aldersgate and the sunlight and daylight reduction would be material, particularly in Seddon House. The applicant’s response had been to state that, with balconies notionally removed, no room experiences more than a 20% reduction in daylight distribution – indicating that it is the presence of the balconies rather than the development which was the main factor in any relative light loss. She questioned, however, how balconies (some of which were actually vital fire escapes) on part of a Grade II listed building in a Conservation Area could be at fault for the significant loss of light caused by the proposed increase in light of the building located directly opposite. She stated that this was not only ridiculous but was also in contravention of item 6160 of the draft Local Plan. Ms Cox added that daylight and sunlight also had recognised health benefits and that residents’ wellbeing should not be ignored in the quest for maximum commercial gain. Ms Cox stated that the applicant had also not taken the cumulative impact of individual developments into account as required by the draft Local Plan. She expressed concern that, if granted, this would pave the way for further developments on top of 140 Aldersgate, enabling further height escalations and yet further loss of residential amenity. Ms Cox concluded by stating that, whilst residents did not disagree with the concept of the development of the site per se, it was the increased height which they did object to and therefore requested that this application be rejected with the height of the building maintained at its present level.
Dr Elizabeth Simpson, a Barbican resident, began by highlighting that over 120 written objections had been submitted on the revised plans for 150 Aldersgate Street and that the additional height and mass of the building would result in a significant loss of daylight for many residents. Dr Simpson highlighted that the impact of this was greatest on west-facing Seddon House flats and that 40 affected residents here had objected to the plans. She added that the developers had failed to take into account Jane Smith’s calculations as to lost daylight that were in breech of current BRE regulations for many of these flats. Dr Simpson underlined that all of the flats concerned were single aspect dwellings with one living room and one bedroom each, all facing Aldersgate Street. Indeed, the daylight and sunlight report itself conceded that, in Seddon House, 31 windows would have a reduction in daylight outside of BRE guidelines. Dr Simpson requested that the proposal therefore be rejected and that the height of the building be maintained at its current level. She concluded by commenting that the significant loss of amenity for Barbican residents was compounded by the failure of the developers to take into account appropriate consideration of the visual impact of the proposed building in the context of the iconic Grade II * listed Barbican Estate and the Smithfield Conservation Area as required by Policy DM12.1.
Susan Hoefling, Clerk to the Worshipful Company of Information Technologists reported that her Livery Hall was located in Bartholomew Close with the building overlooking the courtyard which was Bartholomew Place. On behalf of the businesses overlooking this area, the objection related to the planned reception entrance to the new building at 3-4 Bartholomew Place which would, in turn, lead to an internal walkway linking this building to 150 Aldersgate Street. Ms Hoefling reported that entrance to Bartholomew Place was via a narrow archway into the small courtyard and that these proposals would, inevitably, lead to an increase in the footfall through this area, particularly when the Crossrail Farringdon Station on Long Lane becomes fully occupied and occupants of the new office development choose the shortest route to their destination. Increased footfall would, in turn, create noise disturbance for surrounding businesses. In the case of the WC of Information Technologists, Ms Hoefling highlighted that the company hired out a number of rooms within their building for external events and that any noise disturbance would impact the quality of this offering and, consequently, have a detrimental impact on a quality source of income. Secondly, there were concerns around the courtyard becoming an unofficial smoking area for the occupants of the planned development creating not only further noise disturbance but also an unpleasant environment. Banning smoking in this area would be a solution but would also inevitably push smokers into Bartholomew Close thereby impacting businesses and residents here. In summary, Ms Hoefling stated that her Company believed that providing limited or emergency access only to and from Bartholomew Place would mitigate against their concerns and provide a more acceptable solution for local businesses.
Ms Skehan began by stating that, as well being a resident in Bartholomew Close, she was also a patient at the Neaman Practice, sited in Half Moon Court, backing on to Bartholomew Place. Ms Skehan highlighted that the Neaman Practice served approximately 9,000 patients from all over EC1 and that in a normal, pre-COVID, year the practice would see approximately 17,500 visits, up to 80 per day over 220 weekdays throughout the year. She added that the majority of these visits would involve movement on foot through the narrow lanes in and around Bartholomew Close and that some visitors would also rely on the use of wheelchairs and walking aids. Adding a second reception for 150 Aldersgate Street from Bartholomew Place would no doubt increase vehicle traffic from taxis and other drop-offs as well as footfall in the Close and the surrounding lanes. Ms Skehan added that Bartholomew Close had no height demarcation between the pavements and the highway but did have several 90 degree bends where visibility is very poor. She stated that wheelchair users often had to veer onto the highway as, in places, the pavements were simply too narrow for them to pass and construction and other vehicles also frequently blocked the pathways. Introducing even greater vehicle use in the area would have a detrimental effect on pedestrian safety, particularly for elderly or mobility challenged patients accessing the Practice. Ms Skehan pointed out that several objectors had pointed out that, if the scheme were to go ahead, the second reception plan ought to be re-thought with Bartholomew Place used as a security pass led or emergency exit only. Ms Skehan asked that the application be rejected today and re-thought.
Finally, Alderman Keaveny spoke in objection. He began by stating that he had originally intended to address this meeting in his capacity as Alderman for the Ward of Farringdon Within only but, unfortunately, his DLA Piper planning colleague who had also intended to speak had been informed that this would not be possible on technical grounds. He would now, therefore speak in his capacity as a partner for DLA Piper (a world-leading business law firm and occupant of 160 Aldersgate Street, adjacent to the proposed development) too. A brief presentation was shared with the meeting on behalf of DLA Piper with the Alderman highlighting that the company were sympathetic to the need for enhanced office provision to meet the demands of 21st century businesses and to ensure that the wider City remains an attractive place for world-leading businesses to locate. However, the development of new office space could not be at the expense or to the detriment of existing high quality office space. He went on to state that the proposed development would have a significant adverse impact on the meeting rooms and offices on the 7th and 8th floors of 160 Aldersgate Street. The Committee were shown images of the unimpeded vistas of two north facing meeting rooms on the 7th and 8th floors of 160 Aldersgate Street – if the proposed development were to be approved, both of these rooms would look directly onto a blank wall which would sit just 1 meter away. The Alderman suggested that the applicant’s assertion that it had always been the intention that a new wall would be built here was wholly inaccurate. It was also highlighted that not all of the affected rooms are dual aspect and that the Officers report today appeared to gloss over the fact that overlooking remained a serious issue under these proposals and the fact that the daylight and sunlight assessments did not cover the impact on 160 Aldersgate Street.
The Alderman went on to agree, as Ward Alderman, with the points made by the previous speaker in respect of the impact that this development and the considerable increase in footfall will have on the entrance of Bartholomew Place and the narrow area of Bartholomew Close. He also shared concerns expressed about the height and massing effect of the building on both the Conservation Area to its rear and on the residents on the other side of Aldersgate Street. He therefore asked the Committee to reject this currently envisaged development which was not appropriate for the location concerned.
The Chair thanked all objectors for their contributions and invited questions of the objectors from the Committee. Not seeing any questions, the Chair asked that those speaking on behalf of the applicant be introduced.
The Town Clerk reported that Jonathan Chenery of Beltane would be addressing the Committee and that they would be accompanied by Duncan Roe, Beltane, Ed Williams, Fletcher Priest Architects, Giles Charlton, SpaceHub Landscape Architects, William Brook, Waldrams and Jeremy Randall of Gerald Eve who would be on hand to respond to questions only.
Mr Chenery introduced himself as a founding member of Beltane Asset Management, the developer on this project alongside their partners, Arundel Properties Ltd. Mr Chenery reported that Beltane had been founded in 2010 with a focus on City of London commercial property and, since then, had delivered twelve commercial schemes in the Square Mile – all of them extensive refurbishments like the one presented today. Beltane had most recently completed 55 Gresham Street which had now been let to Investec Asset Management as its new London Headquarters. In July, Beltane had been granted consent to redevelop Millennium Bridge House from this Committee and that it was hoped that this scheme would be delivered in 2022 and that there was already tentative interest in the site from a global occupier who would not normally consider the City for their home, even in these troubled times.
Mr Chenery stated that the plans presented today had been designed by award winning practices Fletcher Priest Architects and SpaceHub Landscape Architects and followed more than a year of work by the design team. It was reported that Fletcher Priest had previously worked on the adjacent site at 160 Aldersgate Street as well as on the 55 Gresham Street scheme. Beltane’s partners, Arundel, were a private UK business and had owned 150 Aldersgate Street for many years. Beltane had joined forces with Arundel in 2019 and had acquired the freehold of 3-4 Bartholomew Place at the rear of 150 Aldersgate Street to provide important connectivity through the scheme to the West, linking with Barts Square, Crossrail and the Culture Mile. Mr Chenery asserted that Beltane’s refurbishment was highly sustainable with approximately 80% of the original structure and sub-structure being retained – thereby supporting the circular economy and minimising disruption and demolition. Members were informed that a pre-demolition material audit would maximise opportunities for the re-use and recycling of all demolition waste. Mr Chenery reported that the team had designed a mixed-mode, all electric building which would be highly energy efficient. The replacement facades would use high-quality, natural materials and take inspiration from the site’s history as a textile factory. Urban greening had been incorporated as a fundamental element of the design and SpaceHub had woven the planting into the fabric of the building to ensure that this would thrive long-term. The proposals achieve an urban greening factor of 0.59 – almost double the City’s current target – making a significant contribution to improved biodiversity and air quality in this very urban environment. The scheme would also deliver Grade A office accommodation that was flexible to respond to the changes in the demands of occupiers, with a focus on wellbeing and providing natural ventilation throughout with openable windows and outdoor amenity space. A café was also proposed on Aldersgate Street to provide an additional amenity for both tenants and the local area. The site is on the periphery of the Culture Mile and would therefore provide public realm benefits through major improvements to Braidwood Passage including a textured art wall and significant opportunities to include public art within this thoroughfare.
Mr Chenery went on to explain that the secondary entrance on Bartholomew Place was fundamental to the vision and would reconnect two buildings which had, historically, been linked and would increase permeability through the site whilst removing servicing and all vehicle movement from Bartholomew Place. Mr Chenery stated that he recognised that development always had potential impacts on neighbours and that Beltane had sought to carefully manage this through design consultation with City of London Officers to mitigate light pollution, privacy and overlooking, albeit that they were dealing with an existing office building. However, commercial developments also created jobs and it was crucial to the future of the City that existing office stock could be refurbished to meet future business needs if it was to remain a powerhouse of the UK and global economy. Mr Chenery confirmed that this project was fully funded and that the existing office building at 150 Aldersgate Street was now vacant. With this Committee’s approval, the developer was ready to start on site to deliver this exciting scheme. He concluded that the refurbishment would provide a world-class, occupier-focused, environmentally sensitive commercial building. He hoped that the application would be supported to enable Beltane to invest in this building and in the City for the future.
The Chair thanked Mr Chenery for his contribution and invited questions of the applicant from Members.
A Member questioned how it was proposed that cyclists get their bikes to and from the bike store given that this would appear to involve navigating a staircase. The Member also referred to the entrance from Cloth Street, stating that she had concerns about the passageway here being used as a cycleway. The Member went on to state that there were plans for 14 visitor cycle spaces. She stated that these would take up a fair amount of space and questioned where these would be situated. Finally, the Member commented that there was no reference to disabled parking at all within the plans and questioned why this was.
Another Member spoke to refer to the late response from Gerald Eve to DLA Piper’s objection noting that the objection was lodged in July 2020. She questioned why the objection had not been included within the background papers for today’s meeting. The Member noted that the DLA Piper objections referred to loss of light and views from their office building. In the Gerald Eve response to these concerns, it was clearly stated that the architect who had designed 160 Aldersgate Street had also designed this scheme – the Member questioned whether they could therefore confirm that 160 Aldersgate Street was always at least two or three storeys higher than 150 and that there had always been a step down from 160 to 150 to 140 Aldersgate Street. With this in mind, it appeared unnatural to raise the roof level of 150 Aldersgate Street to meet that of 160. The Member went on to speak of the greening of the proposed building upon which the applicant had placed a lot of importance. She stated that she was concerned about the maintenance of the green roofs and green walls and asked that the applicant explain who would be responsible for this and how planting would be maintained.
Another Member also referred to the DLA Piper objection which had been lodged in July 2020 and featured on the public webpages but not within today’s agenda pack. He also questioned why it had taken so long for the applicant to come back on these points and why 160 Aldersgate Street was not addressed within their daylight/sunlight report or within their design and access statement . He added that he would also like to understand from the architect, if this was the same architect for both 150 and 160 Aldersgate Street, why a setback was no longer proposed . The Member noted that, from the North side of this development, there would still be a step down, yet, on the part joining 160 Aldersgate Street, there was none.
A Member commented that Braidwood Passage was a very narrow and poorly lit space at present and that any works to widen this and illuminate the area would be welcomed. She was, however, concerned as to cycle access here and questioned if this was what was proposed. With regard to the proposed art wall, the Member cautioned that some artwork had been installed at the crossing nearby as part of the Culture Mile and that many local residents had mistaken this for graffiti.
Mr Chenery responded to each of the points raised in turn. He began by explaining that long-term cycle parking would be accessed through the loading bay at the end of Cloth Street and not off of Braidwood Passage. In terms of short-term cycle parking, Mr Chenery noted that it was important that this was practical as well as a matter of policy. The applicant would therefore like to provide as much of this as possible at ground floor level in and around the building with their aspiration being to provide cycle parking within Bartholomew Close – something which was still part of ongoing discussions with the City of London Corporation. It was explained that there were also aspirations for cycle parking at Half Moon Court.
Ed Williams of Fletcher Priest Architects added that the cycle access to long-term cycle parking in the basement was through the loading bay at Cloth Street and was via a separate safe route which did not conflict with vehicles utilising stairs and lift in the basement. Within the basement, there would be London Plan levels of provision for changing/showering and cycle storage as well as some folding cycle storage provision. Members were assured that the space was easily accessible. Mr Chenery
Reported that there were disabled parking spaces on Cloth Street which were deemed by Officers to meet the need in the local area.
With regard to the design of 160 Aldersgate Street, Ed Williams reported that the glazing on the northern side of this building had been set back in anticipation of the potential for an extended building to the North. He added that the proposals were opaque and that there should not be any issues with overlooking with the northern aspect of the glazing although it was recognised that there would be some loss of light and amenity on this northern edge. Members were informed that the building at 150 Aldersgate Street stepped down to 140 Aldersgate Street.
With regard to the management of the urban greening, Mr Chenery reported that urban greening was a very important concept to the City. Giles Charlton of SpaceHub Landscape Architects reported that the greening had been a very important part of the design evolution of the building and that it was very much about being an integrated piece of architecture, engineering and landscape. Critical to the longer term viability of the planting and the ability to maintain it was having the right conditions in the first place and very detailed co-ordination and consideration had therefore taken place to ensure that optimum conditions were achieved through a very robust system involving things such as soil volumes which had been integrated in and allowed for within the engineering and design of the building. The building would have integrated irrigation systems to enable any planting to survive and flourish in the longer term with minimal maintenance. In terms of access maintenance, direct access would be available to all areas of planting. Responsibility for maintenance would depend upon how the building was let and would be part of the ongoing management strategy.
Mr Chenery added that, with regard to the provision of public art, this would involve consultation with both the local community and the City of London Corporation.
Another Member stated that he would be interested in getting a feel for the applicant’s plans for pedestrian movement/flow around both the main and the secondary entrance. Secondly, the Member commented that he was interested to see the applicant’s brochure mention the need for office accommodation to keep apace with the growing business needs and to capitalise on transport improvements and asked the applicant to comment on how robust this was in terms of plans for the future use of this space.
Another Member questioned whether the cumulative effects of lighting from 160 and 150 Aldersgate Street had been considered.
A Member questioned how the increased footfall through both proposed entrances would impact on other local businesses and also whether the use of the outdoor areas at ground floor level for smoking and the like had been considered.
Another Member referred to short-stay cycle parking and questioned where this might be situated should Bartholomew Close not be made available for this purpose. If Bartholomew Close were to be made available, the Member questioned whether this would effectively be the reallocation of what could have been additional cycle parking space to this application.
Another Member commented that he liked the proposals for reuse and recycling within the scheme. He questioned whether the setting back of the top floors of the building had really been looked at and whether the proposed increase in height for 150 Aldersgate Street was absolutely necessary. He also questioned what provisions would be put in place at Bartholomew Place to deal with smokers. Lastly, given the strength of feeling from both local residents and business, the Member questioned what efforts had been made to consult with them directly to date.
A Member spoke to mention the cumulative impact of the development on the local area in broader terms and asked what consideration had been given to this.
Mr Randall of Gerald Eve responded to the points on pedestrian movement reporting that the applicant had examined pedestrian flows as well as bus and rail movements as part of the application. This had revealed that, in the morning peak, there was expected to be 410 two-way movements to the principal entrance on Aldersgate Street, compared with 70 to-way movements in the morning peak from Bartholomew Place. The movements specifically from Bartholomew Place were 54 to rail, 9 to bus and 7 on foot. It was highlighted that there were a number of means by which occupants could arrive at the building with National Rail stations located to the north, south, east and west of the site and the Crossrail station and Farringdon Thames Link also coming forward. The Barbican Tube station was located to the north and St Paul’s to the south. It was expected that office workers from these stations would arrive at the principal entrance as would bus users.
With regard to the applicant’s approach to the office environment both post-pandemic and beyond, Mr Chenery reported that the design for this building had been in the design pipeline for approximately 18 months now. However, in order to future proof a number of buildings that Beltane were currently working on, they had begun to change the way that these would be serviced in making greater use of natural ventilation/fresh air which had only very recently been shown by the BCO to be a much more preferable approach in offices. Outdoor amenity space was also being incorporated as part of the working environment as part of the wider wellness agenda. Occupiers were now also looking at density and planning for less crowded offices which could actually translate into a requirement for more office space and not less in the City in the longer term.
With regard to daylight/sunlight impact, William Brook of Waldrams reported that the analysis for the cumulative impact of Long Lane or 160 Aldersgate Street hadn’t been included but that these cumulative impacts had been reviewed in detail particularly for Long Lane which was being built at a similar time. He added that the daylight and sunlight impact of the Long Lane development had been worked through in some detail, particularly in terms of its potential impact on Seddon House and Lauderdale Tower where reports showed that the impact to windows here was almost negligible. In terms of similar windows impacted by the 150 Aldersgate proposals, this too was almost negligible and so reference to the cumulative impact of Long Lane was considered unnecessary for this reason. With regard to 160 Aldersgate Street, it was highlighted that this had been in situ for some time now and was used as a baseline for the analysis. However, it was noted that, because of the articulation between Thomas Moore and Seddon House, with the main windows within Seddon House facing north-west and within Thomas Moore facing 160 Aldersgate Street, there was a very clear break between the impact of 150 and 160 Aldersgate Street. The impacts of 160 on Mountjoy House and Thomas Moore which had been analysed as part of this application had been deemed acceptable at the time and the impact of these would be relatively limited, if not entirely negligible to the west face of Seddon House. In terms of the cumulative impact of both 160 and 150 Aldersgate Street to the space under Seddon House, the impact of the current proposals for 150 to that space was 1% of the test set out by the BRE and would therefore be marginal – as such, further analysis of any cumulative impact had not been deemed appropriate.
On smoking, Mr Chenery reported that any commercial space would be deemed ‘non-smoking’ as required by law and that any space under Beltane’s direct control would also be non-smoking. Any occupiers would be discouraged from smoking around the building by an on-site security presence and the applicant was very happy to tackle this matter in greater detail within a Management Plan.
Finally, Mr Chenery and Mr Randall confirmed that the public consultation on the scheme had been extensive. Mr Randall confirmed that consultation had begun in early 2020 and, as such, face to face meetings, briefings and a public consultation exercise had been possible in February and were well attended. An exhibition was manned by the consultant team and a Statement of Community Involvement had been submitted alongside this planning application. Mr Randall reiterated that the architect for this building had also worked on the neighbouring building and this therefore enabled the design team to learn from them in terms of the planning history of the site and help inform the design process/proposals.
With regard to the technicalities of provide short-stay cycle parking and its location with the City, Mr Randall stated that this provision was a perennial problem for schemes in the Square Mile. There was clearly a policy requirement around this but a balance also needed to be struck in terms of street furniture and avoiding clutter. In this instance, it was highlighted that there were a number of opportunities to provide short-stay cycle parking at various highway points to the building but a precise location was yet to be settled on. The applicant had agreed with Officers to accept a planning condition and to provide further details and a finalised solution on this.
The Chair asked that Members now move to debate the application as well as to raise any outstanding questions they might have of Officers. He asked that Members speak only once in the interests of efficient meeting management.
A Member stated that it was clear that a lot of thought had gone into this scheme and that there were many benefits but it did still seem that the concerns of DLA Piper had been overlooked. He therefore sought to understand from Officers why this letter of objection, received in July 2020, had not been included within background papers for today’s meeting and what their advice was on this. The relationship of 150 Aldersgate to 160 was clearly of vital importance.
Another Member spoke on various points raised in the objections. He began by stating that many of the objections referred to office light pollution from 160 Aldersgate Street and that the latest renovation to this building included the installation of hardware for computer controlled, motion activated lighting but that this had proved to not go far enough in addressing the problem and achieving a suitable reduction in light pollution from this building. These proposals therefore had a condition attached which would require a lighting strategy to be submitted to the Corporation and would mitigate the impact of office lights which was a significant step towards addressing this issue. The Member thanked Officers for introducing this new condition for future developments. Secondly, the Member referred to concerns raised around what some residents had described as incessant construction works, particularly around Barts Square. He stated that he was sympathetic to this but also highlighted that the Court of Common Council had recently committed to a Climate Action Strategy which involved improving the fabric and surface design of existing buildings and which would therefore require works to achieve this at least in the short to medium term. Thirdly, many residents to the west of the building had raised concerns around increased footfall, however, the Member highlighted that there was already a secondary entrance to 160 Aldersgate Street in existence which had, oddly, not been referred to within the objections.
The Chief Commoner spoke to state that he broadly supported this development, but stated that he did still have some concerns around daylight/sunlight and overlooking and the fact that some residents could be seemingly penalised due to having balconies. He sought further clarification on this point from Officers.
Another Member spoke to state that this application for the refurbishment of a tired office block was, in his view, unobjectionable, except that it would involve an increase in the height of the building by two storeys which would cause a significant loss of daylight to many nearby flats in a major residential area as well as other adverse consequences. The Member continued by stating that if the benefits of an additional two storeys on top of an existing seven storey office block (particularly at a time when future office space requirements in the City may be less not more) were pitted against the real harm that would be done by those extra storeys to the daylight enjoyed by local residents and the adverse effects on neighbouring business amenity, the balance must tilt against the application being granted in its present form. The applicant could then resubmit the plans without the addition of these extra storeys in the expectation that it would be approved. The Member went on to question why refusal had not been recommended to the Committee today. He noted that the applicant had been careful to include some token greening which would make no noticeable improvement to the environment and that there was an enthusiastic yet vague reference to links with the Culture Mile which should not be used as a pass to grant planning permission to commercial developments within the vicinity. He added that he did not feel that the excuses provided around loss of daylight should be accepted - noting that, whenever any loss fell within the accepted limits of BRE guidelines, Members are told that approval should be granted but, whenever it did not, they were told that the guidelines should be disregarded as they were not appropriate for a dense, urban environment. The Committee were also being told that the loss of daylight was acceptable as the affected flats had balconies although these could not be removed given that they were part of a listed building. The Member concluded by stating that planning decisions were ultimately judgement calls and that good judgement involved seeing through pretence and not accepting rationalisations about daylight and exaggerations about public benefits. It involved striking a fair balance between two competing planning considerations – new office development/refurbishment and residential/business amenity. In this case, the balance was easily struck with two unnecessary extra storeys on an existing office building versus the quality of residents’ lives and neighbouring business amenity. The Member added that if this Committee were to strike the wrong judgement it may yet be a judgement on them, noting that City residents had been patient thus far but that this would not always be the case.
Another Member stated that, in his view, this application had a number of draw backs but also had several benefits when compared to the existing structure. However, a favourable comparison to a disappointing building was not good enough and showed a lack of ambition. This development was within and near to two Conservation Areas and a site of growing significance and sensitivity, in an area that is about to be transformed. In addition to the concerns raised by those neighbouring the site, there were also points raised within the report as to the adequacy of the provision of retail and the treatment of Bartholomew Place. The report acknowledged that the new elevation in Bartholomew Place would be reminiscent of the previous building which was very unsightly and, fortunately, had now been demolished. He therefore suggested that something reminiscent of this should not be erected here. Furthermore, the Member stated that it was very disappointing that, if planning permission were to be granted, this building would have more than 50% more space than it previously had yet failed to provide any additional pedestrian space. Whilst reference had been made today to the widening of Braidwood Passage this did not appear to be reflected within the report. Paragraph 140 stated that the pedestrian experience would be slightly worsened but would remain at B+ there was, however, no indication that this also took into account the transformation of the wider area including the re-positioning of the Museum of London, the transformation of Smithfield Market, the opening of the Crossrail station or the creation of the Culture Mile.
Another Member commented on the consultation and exhibitions that had taken place and stated that she was surprised that a compromise had not been reached with those living nearby. She added that 150 Aldersgate Street was much nearer to Seddon House and the corner of Thomas Moore House and would therefore have a greater impact in terms of loss of light and overlooking to windows serving bedrooms, living rooms and kitchens. The Member also enquired as to what sort of lighting arrangements would be in place at the proposed development given that Barbican residents had experienced ongoing issues with this from other nearby office buildings in the evening.
The Chair asked, at this stage, that Members speak to raise new points only.
A Member stated that she had a number of concerns, particularly around the scale and visual impact of the Bartholomew Place elevation which she felt would be overwhelming. The proposed light grey brick work at the Cloth Street entrance against the surrounding red brickwork of all other building here also appeared to be problematic. The Member stated that she did not feel that the concerns of residents had been given appropriate weight and that she felt that the proposed greening was a problem in that it was simply a token offering as street level. Finally, the Member expressed concerns around roof height ‘creep’ and highlighted that considerable extra space could be provided within the existing building minus this additional two storeys. She suggested that the applicant return to the drawing board on these plans.
Another Member stated that he was disappointed to learn that 160 Aldersgate Street had been taken as a baseline and that the cumulative impact of 150 and 160 had not been assessed. He stated that he recalled the debate on 160 and that this had included refence to the likely future development of 150 and the fact that the two buildings would then need to be considered cumulatively, as our policies require. He questioned why this had not been the case. He also felt that the existing plans went too far in seeking an additional two storeys. Otherwise, he felt that there was much to be commended in these plans which would improve the existing building.
The Deputy Chairman recognised that this was not a perfect scheme but stated that he felt that it was a commendable scheme in the circumstances and strived to do what a building should do which was to be long-lasting, fill the space appropriately, provide space for pedestrians and cyclists as per the Transport Strategy. He added that new lighting requirements had also been incorporated in an attempt to address the ongoing blight of lit windows at night. He concluded by stating that he felt that this was a reasonable proposal that he hoped the Committee would support.
Another Member stated that he was disappointed not to have been able to undertake a site visit as this was a much bigger development than just on Aldersgate Street as had already been alluded to by previous speakers. He stated that he did not feel that any adequate case had been presented to justify the addition of two storeys which would have a huge impact on residential communities nearby and asked Officers to therefore elaborate on this point. He was of the view that the plans should be withdrawn and resubmitted on a smaller scale and that, in its present form, it should be refused.
A Member moved a Motion that the question now be put given that many points were now simply being repeated. Another Member spoke in objection to the motion stating that there were still a number of points that she would like to ask of Officers. The motion was seconded.
The Town Clerk confirmed that, as the Motion had now been put and seconded, the Committee would need to vote on this. The terms of the Motion were as follows:
MOTION - That Members now proceed to vote on the application without further debate, in accordance with Standing Order No 37 (3).
The Committee then proceeded to vote on the Motion. The vote was conducted by rollcall led by the Town Clerk with Members called to vote alphabetically by surname, with the exception of the Chair and Deputy Chairmen who were called to vote last.
Votes were cast as follows: IN FAVOUR – 15 Votes
OPPOSED – 13 Votes
There were no abstentions.
A Member sought advice from the Comptroller and City Solicitor as to the validity and appropriateness of the Motion. The Comptroller and City Solicitor stated that if the majority of the Committee had reached the view that they had all the information it needed to reach a conclusion at this stage then this was a reasonable approach to take in light of the report, the debate and the representations it had heard.
At this point, the Chairman sought approval from the Committee 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.
The Committee then proceeded to vote on the recommendations before them within the report. 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 – 14 Votes
OPPOSED – 12 Votes
There were 2 abstentions.
The application was therefore approved.
RESOLVED – That planning permission be granted for the above proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule subject to: Planning obligations and other agreements being entered into under section 106 of the Town & Country Planning Act 1990 and Section 278 of the Highways 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.