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 2-3 Finsbury Avenue, London, EC2M 2PF – specifically, the demolition of the existing buildings and construction of a new building arranged over three basement levels, ground and 37 upper floors to provide an office-led, mixed use development comprising commercial, business and service uses (Class E), flexible commercial, business and service uses / drinking establishment uses (Class E/Sui Generis); and learning and non-residential institutions uses (Class F1); creation of a new pedestrian route through the site at ground floor level; hard and soft landscaping works; outdoor seating associated with ground level uses and other works incidental to the development.
The Town Clerk introduced the item, highlighting that Members had also received a virtual site video clip, an applicant’s brochure and two late addendums circulated earlier this week.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director presented the scheme and began by apologising for the late circulation of the two addendums relating to this item. He added that this was, however, inevitable as any late representations had to be reviewed by Officers and reported to Committee.
He went on to report that the proposal today was around the comprehensive redevelopment of 2-3 Finsbury Avenue, a site on the northern most boundary of the City, adjoining the London Borough of Hackney to the north, Islington to the north-west and Tower Hamlets to the east. It was therefore very much a gateway site to the City and part of the Broadgate estate which had already been the subject of a number of applications and was currently undergoing a radical transformation which was being overseen by British Land. Members were informed that the building itself was not in a conservation area but was adjacent to conservation areas in both Islington to the north-west and Hackney (Sun Street Conservation Area) to the north and was also directly adjacent to listed buildings – in particular, 1 Finsbury Avenue. The impact on each of these was covered comprehensively within the report.
Members were informed that the building in question was built between 1986-1988 and, as such, was now over 30 years old. The 20th Century Society had objected to the loss of this building in terms of its architectural quality. Members were made aware that there was a certificate of immunity from listing which was first issued by the Secretary of State in 2015 and was renewed in 2019 and remained valid until 2024. Officers added that they did not consider this building to be of the highest standard architecturally. Members were shown existing views of the building/site looking east and south west – Members were informed that the sculpture visible in the foreground from this view would be removed as part of this scheme but that there was a condition under the Section106 arrangements around its reinstatement and there were ongoing discussions around this and a suitable alternative location.
The Committee were informed that the developer had looked rigorously at the possibility of reusing the existing building as set out within the report but it was considered that this would provide a materially less sustainable, less usable and less efficient building than could be offered by redevelopment. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director went on to state that a material consideration for the Committee to be aware of is that there is an existing planning permission for the redevelopment of this site, granted in March 2018 which could, essentially, be implemented by the applicant. This application was substantially the same massing, bulk and footprint as the previously consented scheme, but Members were informed of the main changes between the two. It was explained that these proposals involved a modest increase in the tower and to the northern side of the scheme and a slight bulking out on the western side of the building.
Turning to the existing site, Officers highlighted that it appeared as if there were a pinchpoint here but it was highlighted that this was not a route but an impermeable, large, single site. It was highlighted that the existing retail offering here was not particularly generous and that the site itself had a lot of back of house uses which faced onto the public realm and resulted in a lack of vibrancy here. The proposed footprints showed a new, very welcome, north-south pedestrian route running through the site and that pavements would be widened to accommodate predicted increases in footfall and there would be good pedestrian comfort levels achieved. There would be an increase of 160 square meters in public realm, due mainly to the introduction of the new north-south route and there would be no stopping-up of public highway proposed. Members were shown images of the new pedestrian route from the north looking south which depicted how generous this would be at 8 meters wide and 6 meters high which would be open 24/7, to be secured under Section 106.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director went on to focus on wind, noting that the plans had been subject to very rigorous wind assessments using computer viewer dynamics and wind tunnel techniques in line with the Wind Mircoclimate Guidelines. The wind levels were considered to be acceptable and mitigation measures had been incorporated into the building at a very early stage and there would be landscaping elements that would further improve wind conditions. This would be conditioned. It was recognised that, as with any tall building, there were some areas where wind conditions were improved and made calmer (junction of Sun Street and Crown Place), whilst other areas became somewhat windier , particularly in the south west corner where the service entrance was to be located. Overall, the wind conditions were considered to be acceptable for the intended use of the public with no safety exceedances. As with any tall building there would be additional conditions would be placed on mitigation measures to ensure continued improvement on these and a post-completion wind audit would also be required. Notably, the Committee were informed that this was one of the first major schemes where the Thermal Comfort modelling technique previously presented to them had been applied. The outcomes of this had also shown acceptable wind conditions. Officers went on to highlight the proposed and very generous retail offering (over 700 square meters) that the scheme would provide. Officers explained that there would be no loss of existing retail space under these plans and an almost three fold increase in retail frontage to approximately 200 meters plus of this. This would be focused in the area surrounding the new pedestrian route. As these units were Class E uses under the new Use Class Orders, there would be a condition to ensure that this was provided for retail use. However, the intention was to build in some flexibility to adapt to changing demands. Officers went on to highlight that one of the most positive elements of this scheme was perhaps the proposed open learning hub (F1 use). This would be an outward looking hub for education, training, skills and culture for the use of local communities and networks in and around the City. This area would be 2,200 square meters of flexible and formal space and would be a shared resource that was economically and socially inclusive. It would house a range of learning providers from local non-profit organisations and community organisations to international and global institutions. The programming of this space and its operation, including the involvement of community partners, would be agreed upon as part of the Delivery Management Plan which would be secured through a Section 106 agreement. Officers were of the view that this had real potential to make a significant contribution towards training and skills opportunities for local communities which was a huge focus in the Local Plan and had become increasingly important over the last year. It was felt that this would be particularly important for some communities in the City fringes who experience significant economic hardship and could serve as a gateway into the City and all it had to offer. The learning hub would span three levels and Members were shown images of the proposed space to better illustrate its look and feel. Its entrance would be very prominent on the corner of the building, looking north-westwards.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that the scheme deliberately celebrated cycling with the spaces that were to be provided exceeding the London Plan targets for both long-stay and short-stay cycle parking. A total of 42 short-stay spaces would be provided at the boundary of the site and a further 80 spaces in the vicinity of the site within the Broadgate Estate. One of the dynamic elements of the offer was that the proposal celebrated the cycle entrance and a cycle workshop would be included at ground floor level for cycle maintenance and repair. The Committee were shown visuals of the cycle entrance and ramp complete with a transparent wall to the north, celebrating the movement of cyclists in this area. At basement level, Members were shown images of the very generous cycle parking space provisions and shower facilities.
In terms of vehicle servicing, this would be located in the south-west corner of the site with two vehicle lifts and, as was now the norm in the City, there would be off-site consolidation and no morning, lunchtime or afternoon peak-time deliveries. A Delivery and Servicing Plan secured through a Section 106 agreement and this development would generate fewer daily servicing trips than the already consented scheme with daily deliveries capped at 132. Members were shown plans for the delivery bay at basement level.
Members were informed that the entrance to the building would be situated in the south east corner at ground floor level . At first floor level would be a large, shared, social lobby serviced by five banks of escalators and lifts. The scale and generosity of this space was intended to be conducive to collaborative working and co-working. Beyond this would be another mezzanine level before the office floors were introduced and then spanned the entire remaining height of the building. Members were informed that the scheme would deliver over 83,000 square meters of flexible office space which was an uplift of 61,000 square meters over the existing offer. The office spaces were designed to be flexible and adaptable and capable of subdivision and expansion with soft spots in the floor. It was designed as a vertical campus and Members were shown visuals of a typical office floorplate. It was highlighted that terraces were proposed on the west side as you move up the building and that these would be part of the health and wellbeing strategy of the building. There would also be a winter garden provided for the users of the building. The office offer of this scheme was considered to represent an ecosystem of collaboration, flexibility, coworking and wellbeing and there would also be a provision under Section106 for affordable workspace with the amount offered to be a third more than had been secured under the already consented scheme.
A 38-storey 178m tower proposed on the eastern side of the site and a 22-storey building on the western side, both of which would sit on a 13-storey podium. Officers explained that this largely mirrored the concept of the consented scheme and that they were of the view that the angle faceted façade would contribute very positively to the skyline of the City.
Next, Members were shown visuals of the public realm and streetscape proposed at the base of the building which was designed to have no ‘back of house’ elevation. The east elevation of the proposed building depicted its relationship to Crown Place to the north and the south elevation showed how the building looked from Finsbury Avenue Square. The west elevation would celebrate the open learning hub and the cycling entrance with its glazed wall.
With regard to daylight/sunlight, Officers highlighted that an objection had been received regarding this. Members were informed that this had been thoroughly assessed as part of the application and that many of the impacts on adjoining residential units were either or minor negligible. However, it was noted that the report made clear that the assessment had identified a major adverse impact on the daylight and sunlight to a significant number of rooms within the soon to be completed development at One Crown Place directly to the north. Despite the failure to comply with BRE criteria, Officers did not consider that the proposals would result in an unacceptable impact on residential amenity within the context of the location of the site in a densely developed city centre. This was set out in the Local Plan with BRE also acknowledging that, in such settings, it was very difficult to achieve ideal light solutions and this was not therefore considered to be a breach of policy.
Focusing in on the principle of a tall building at this location which was not within the established City Cluster Policy Area, Officers highlighted that it also did not sit within an area that the Local Plan identified as being inappropriate for tall buildings. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director added that this was a rather eccentric area in that there were two protected vistas that crossed the site location – one from Westminster Pier and one from Kind Henry VIII Mound in Richmond. It also crossed a point where the City joined with three other local authorities. Members were informed that both protected vistas ran from west to east and that both focused on St Paul’s Cathedral. There was, however, an area within this where, theoretically, there was potential for quite a significance uplift in floorspace without harming these protected vistas. The site was situated in one of these areas – a rather narrow wedge-shaped moving from south-west to north-east where there were already a number of consented schemes both in Hackney, Tower Hamlets and this site which was consented in 2018.
Members were shown visuals of the proposal in relation to the emerging cluster of buildings. Officers reported that the building had been sculpted such that it would not appear from the fixed view point from Westminster Pier. The view from King Henry VIII’s Mound depicted an already consented scheme and the proposal was shown as being sculpted so that it did not breach the silhouette of this building. In terms of wider views, Members were shown images of the view of the proposed scheme from the north end of Waterloo Bridge which showed that it was a significant distance away from St Paul’s which would remain generously framed by open sky. Similarly, from the centre of the bridge, no harmful impact to the setting of St Paul’s was shown. The view from Gabriel’s Wharf showed that the scheme had been sculpted to ensure that it did not breach the skyline around St Paul’s and it would be concealed from view from this viewpoint. The view where the proposal did collide with St Paul’s was not an LDMF view but was, nevertheless, of some significance. This fixed view from the South Bank also depicted Crown Place and Heron Tower. This was not, however, considered to be harmful with the buildings presented as a backdrop to the Cathedral. Members were informed that the proposals would have no impact on the World Heritage site where the proposed building would sit behind the already consented cluster of towers. The view from St Paul’s Golden Gallery depicted the proposal within a separate cluster on the City fringe. In terms of local views, Crown Place could be seen alongside the proposal rising up behind Finsbury Circus and this was not considered to be harmful when considered alongside the other consented schemes also visible from here. Views from the east showed the proposals very much integrated into this new cluster of tall buildings across the three other boroughs and, from Finsbury Square, the building could be seen as relating not only to this new cluster to the east but also to the City Cluster to the south. The proposal was also not considered to be harmful in the view looking at the backdrop of the listed building at 1 Finsbury Avenue in terms of its setting.
In terms of urban greening, Officers reported that this was just 0.1 and fell short of the 0.3 required by policy. However, it was felt that, in terms of the architectural vocabulary of the building, it was very difficult to accommodate a significant amount of urban greening without compromising the integrity of the building. Officers would therefore be talking to British Land about offsetting the greening and one of the options here would be to create a green roof on another building within the campus at a cost of approximately £500k. It was reported that there was also provision within Section106 to offset the greening by using that money to green the area around the building via generous tree planting for example which Officers felt at this stage was preferable and likely to be of wider public benefit.
Finally, Members were shown visuals as to how this proposal would fit in with the wider redevelopment/transformation of Broadgate which had been undertaken by British Land over the past 5-10 years. This transformation, of which these proposals were an important puzzle piece, would result in the delivery of a very dynamic and vibrant urban quarter in this part of the City. The Interim Chief Planning officer and Development Director concluded by underlining that this scheme would provide 83,000 square meters of flexible, adaptable floorspace – a considerable uplift of over 60,000 square meters over the existing offering. The office floorspace was designed to be flexible but also with the health and wellbeing of workers at the forefront. Officers were of the view that this was architecture of the very highest quality. It targeted a BREAAM ‘outstanding’ rating and had very strong sustainability credentials and Officers felt that it would make a very positive contribution to the City skyline. The cycling offer here was extremely good and exceeded both long and short-term cycle parking space standards and deliberately celebrated cycling with an integral cycle workshop on site. Vehicular servicing would be consolidated with no peak time deliveries as per policy and wider pavements would be provided with a new generous north-south route which would improve the pedestrian comfort levels in this area and result in over 160 square meters of new public realm in the form of permissive path. The proposals offered a greatly enhanced retail offering with over 200 meters of retail frontage (a three-fold increase on existing). There would also be a very generously scaled and prominently located learning hub which was considered to be an innovative and new economically and socially inclusive resource for the wider local community for education, training, skills and culture. Officers were of the belief that this would serve as a new portal into the City for its surrounding communities. The application was therefore recommended favourably to Members.
The Town Clerk introduced Mr. Henry Robinson speaking in objection to the application. Mr Robinson introduced himself as the Development Manager delivering the One Crown Place development to the immediate north of the application site. For background, Mr Robinson reported that One Crown Place was a residential led, mixed-use development comprising of 246 homes, office, hotel and retail floorspace. Mr Robinson underlined that he was speaking today on behalf of the freeholder of One Crown Place but also on behalf of the residents who would be moving into their homes in approximately 10 weeks time.
From the outset, Mr Robinson wished to make it clear to the Committee that they were not against the principle of the development of a tall building in this location - as shown in previous discussions conducted with the applicants in 2016 as part of their 2018 application. There were concerns related to the impact on the amenity of One Crown Place as a result of the previous scheme but they had worked with the applicant to minimise these in so far as possible. On this basis, their holding objection to the previously consented scheme had been withdrawn although the impacts of this were already very significant and categorised as ‘major adverse’. Mr Robinson reported that there had, unfortunately, been no consultation with them in relation to these plans and that the first that they had learned of these was when they had received notification of the public consultation through their marketing suite letterbox.
Mr Robinson stated that, in summary, they were very concerned that the additional mass and bulk proposed as part of this application – in particular, the western tower – would further exacerbate these already serious impacts. The previous scheme was already a very dense and large-scale development and it was disappointing that these latest proposals were going to have an even greater impact on residents. Primary concerns related to the daylight and sunlight impact on residents. It was underlined that the applicants’ submission and Officers report highlighted that there would be major adverse impacts in terms of daylight and sunlight to One Crown Place. However, there was very limited commentary on the true extent of these impacts – for instance a VSC daylight impacts on One Crown Place were summarised within paragraph 352 of the Officers report and stated that 496 windows failed the BRE guidelines in terms of VSC assessment and 351 windows will experience a loss of VSC of more than 40% which is considered major, adverse. However, Mr Robinson reported that, from their own daylight and sunlight consultant’s initial review, they had found that over 170 windows would actually have a VSC loss of more than 70%, 59 windows would experience a loss of 70-80%, 69 windows would experience a loss of 80-90% and a further 45 windows would experience a loss of over 90%. Mr Robinson stated that these impacts were clearly very significant and should therefore have been clearly set out for Members to enable them to make an informed decision. Their consultants had also found that there would be certain living and dining rooms within One Crown Place that would experience daylight losses in excess of 80% for both VSC and NSL daylight assessment methodologies with low retained levels of VSC below 5% and some even below 3% in certain circumstances. To put this into context, Mr Robinson explained that the recent GLA and appeal decisions have generally considered retained VSC levels in the mid-teens as appropriate for dense urban environments. The retained levels on certain windows of One Place would be well below these figures and were as low as 2.5%. In summary it was not believed that the daylight and sunlight information provided to Members provided them with a full and comprehensive picture of the impact on One Crown Place. It was felt that the Committee should be provided with a more robust daylight and sunlight commentary to enable them to make a more informed decision about the severity of the impact in order to balance the amenity impact on One Crown Place against the overall benefits of the proposal. It was therefore requested that today’s decision be deferred to enable the applicant to provide further commentary on the level of these impacts experienced and thereby give Members enough time to make a properly considered and reasonable determination of the application. Mr Robinson added that the One Crown Place team would be happy to meet with the applicants and with the City of London Corporation to discuss the impacts and how they could be partially mitigated in more detail.
The Chairman thanked Mr Robinson for his contribution and invited any questions that Members might have of him. Seeing none, the Town Clerk introduced those speaking in support of the application – Mr Michael Meadows, Head of Planning at British Land, Mr Audun Opdal of 3XN Architects and Mr Patrick Bellew of Atelier Ten.
The applicant team shared a further presentation of the scheme with Members. Mr Meadows began by emphasising that the scheme had been co-designed with the City of London Corporation and enhanced by the support and challenge that the applicant had had from Officers during lengthy pre-application discussions. Mr Meadows went on to expand upon British Land’s wider vision for Broadgate and 2 Finsbury Avenue. He stated that the vision was to transform the Broadgate neighbourhood into a world-class, 7 day, mixed-use destination and that British Land were investing £1.5 billion in the City over 10 years with their joint venture partners GIC. They had delivered 1.5million square feet of new and refurbished space across six buildings and supported 7,800 people through their employment and community programmes. The occupier base had been diversified by attracting tech and media businesses to the area whilst also successfully retaining legal and financial customers and providing flexible space for SMEs. The amenity offer here had also been transformed with 35 new shops and restaurants including a new Everyman Cinema and the UK’s first EATALY. They were also responding to changing ways of working and business priorities. It was reported that 100 Liverpool Street had net zero embodied carbon and was the applicant’s first project to achieve a BREEAM ‘outstanding’ rating. A new 1.5 acre park was to be delivered in Exchange Square which would quadruple the amount of green space at Broadgate and improve wellbeing. The applicant reported that they would start on site at 1 Broadgate in May, delivering an exciting, mixed-use building and demonstrating their continued confidence in Broadgate and the City.
Mr Meadows went on to focus specifically on 2 Finsbury Avenue – the next and most exciting step in the evolution of Broadgate. He explained that the vision here was to create an innovative, inclusive and sustainable place to work, visit and learn, combining world-class architecture, engineering, environmental and behavioural design from an international team of leaders in their fields. Mr Meadows explained that the applicant had sought to enhance the already consented scheme, creating a positive addition to the skyline whilst also respecting the constraints of the site and employing the latest modelling techniques including the City’s own Wind Microclimate and Thermal Comfort guidelines. Members were informed that the sky gap between the two towers was to be maintained and that this had been negotiated with the owners of One Crown Place as part of the already consented scheme. Mr Meadows stated that the ongoing pandemic had underlined the importance of the office as more than just a place for productivity, placing greater emphasis on innovation, collaboration, training and culture. He underlined that 2 Finsbury Avenue embraced this ethos and would provide outstanding work environments and green spaces focused on health, wellbeing and adaptability, reflecting the evolving needs of customers. It was reported that public access would be provided through the open Learning Hub and innovative social lobby. Mr Meadows explained that the vision for the open Learning Hub was to create a visible hub, shared resource and an accessible route into the knowledge and expertise of the City, meeting the needs of local communities, contributing to the learning and skills ecosystem and supporting the City’s wider cultural offer. The space had been designed to facilitate both formal and informal learning programmes from a range of educational providers, corporates and social enterprises.
Mr Meadows added that 2 Finsbury Avenue had been designed with sustainability at its heart, building on British Land’s ambitious sustainability strategy and commitment to make their whole portfolio net zero by 2030. This would be achieved by reducing operational carbon intensity across their portfolio.
Mr Bellow began by reporting that Atelier Ten were working as the sustainability consultants on this project. He stated that the sustainability targets adopted by British Land in 2020 to align with their 2030 net zero goals were class-leading for the UK and therefore demanded robust processes for tracking and optimising carbon performance. In response, the team had developed specific studies relating to sustainability vision, embodied carbon, circular economy, operational carbon and behavioural design which embrace current and future thinking to build on the BREEAM outstanding foundation with green solutions, putting sustainability inextricably at the heart of the project. Mr Bellew reported that there had been an intense focus on embodied carbon, both in terms of the reuse of existing materials and in the design of the new building. All components were being audited and optimised with low embodied carbon options integrated wherever possible. It was noted that policy in the emerging London Plan set a current target of 900-1,000kg of carbon per square meter with an aspirational target of 550-600kg. Mr Bellew underlined that the British Land target was 500kg for all of their projects by 2030 and that they were currently sitting at less than 600kg, with the intention of driving this number still lower through the design process and engagement with the supply chain. Mr Bellew reported that the carbon emissions that formed the basis of these embodied carbon estimates were not local to the building/in the City but happened at the cement factory, the steelwork sand the aluminium plant – so physically distant but still warranting detailed attention. Mr Bellew added that there were signs that the supply chain were really beginning to respond to the demand for lower carbon products and processes. He went on to report that British Land were committed to offsetting all embodied carbon emissions arising from their projects at a rate of £60 per tonne of carbon. Members were informed that a third of this was achieved through ecosystem improvements and reforestation with the balance invested in the transition and upgrading standing assets within Broadgate and across the wider portfolio.
Mr Bellew went on to state that the detailed materials audit on the existing building identified many opportunities to upcycle materials, including repurposing glazing as washroom tiles. Turning to operational carbon, Mr Bellew reported that the 1980s buildings that were set to be replaced have annual CO2 emissions from their gas-fired heating of 400 tonnes. These emissions would be removed from the City as the new building would be all electric and have zero emissions from its efficient air source heat pumps. The Committee were informed that the building as designed had been optimised for passive performance and would incorporate highly efficient systems which together would give a 47% reduction on Part L requirements with energy recovered wherever possible and current estimates projecting a 90kw hour per square meter overall energy use compared to 300-350 used by the existing buildings on the site. Again, there would be zero on site emissions and an all electrical supply procured from renewable energy sources. Mr Bellow highlighted that a good example of a design optimisation was the parametric tool developed to focus the design on the complex façade to balance energy flows with light, glare and views so that the applicant had been able to understand the opportunities for self-shading, energy performance whilst maintaining views. The environmental impact of architectural visions could also be assessed instantaneously. This bespoke piece of development work exemplified the focus of performance based solutions.
Mr Opdal reported that, when 3XN architects had started on this project, British Land had sought guidance on what the future of the office might look like and they had begun by looking at some of the existing qualities in the campus and surroundings buildings. Mr Opdal went on to explain that a campus was essentially a series of volumes connected with amenities and public spaces and the applicant wanted to transform these qualities into a vertical structure/campus. This led to the design of a tower that was actually broken down into smaller volumes connected with spaces for interaction and green spaces. Mr Opdal explained that the floorplates were designed to maximise daylight and exterior views. The cores were centrally located, making the building resilient for future users. Green spaces would be created and, at level 1, would be a communal space in the form of a social lobby where users of the building and the campus could connect and interact. Having the lobby at level 1 enabled the applicant to provide more space at ground floor, creating a pedestrian link that would connect Sun Street and Finsbury Avenue Square. It would also enable the applicant to create active ground floor frontages. Members were also informed that the applicant was keen to celebrate bicycles and the Committee were shown visuals of the entrance to the bicycle where there would also be views into the public use space provided. Mr Opdal explained that the open Learning Hub would be located at the corner of Wilson Street and Sun Street. He highlighted that this was an outward looking facility, enabling people to drop in to the space directly off of the street and interact with others at ground floor, level 1 or level 2.
The Chair thanked the applicant team for their contributions and invited any questions that Members may have of them.
A Member sought further details of the proposed wind mitigation measures. Ruth Shilston of RWDI responded to state that there were two steps in terms of wind mitigation that had been undertaken as part of this project. The first of these had involved looking at the architecture of the scheme and, as a result, there were a number of areas where the form of the actual building itself had been sculpted to improve wind conditions – for example, the corner of Whitecross Place and Wilson Street would have a chamfer inserted into it with the specific purpose of softening the winds that travel around this corner. Similarly, the design of the passageway through the centre of the tower would also have a degree of chamfering and some small down stands to improve wind conditions travelling through this area. Secondly, in order to further improve the conditions, a number of landscaping elements were also proposed such as trees to be planted to the east of the scheme and a pergola or canopy structure would be introduced at the entrance to Whitecross Place.
Another Member asked the developer to comment on the anticipated impact on the City and surrounding external facilities of the additional occupiers in this building. Mr Meadows reported that it was estimated that the development would have capacity for approximately 6,000 city workers, excluding visitors to the open Learning Hub and the offices. He reiterated that British Land were investing heavily in the Broadgate campus to mitigate the impact of this in terms of pedestrian flows and permeability with a new north-south route through the building connecting Finsbury Avenue Square to Sun Street. A new route through their 1 Broadgate development would also connect Finsbury Avenue Square to the Liverpool Street Station concourse. In addition, significant amenity would also be added to the campus and the applicant would be investing heavily in the public realm. It was reported that the applicant had undertaken the refurbishment and repositioning of Broadgate Circle which had been completed in 2015, had upgraded Broadgate Plaza and Finsbury Avenue Square with more opportunities for outdoor meeting and dining and were now on site with a major redevelopment of Exchange Square to create a new park for the City of London which would complete at the end of 2021 and quadruple the amount of green space at Broadgate. It was felt that the combination of those four pieces of work would provide amenity not just for the occupiers of these buildings but for all.
Another Member commented that the Officers had reported that the massing of this scheme was very similar to that of the consented scheme. He noted that objectors had complained on the grounds of the west tower impacting upon daylight and sunlight levels and questioned why this was significantly worse than the consented scheme if this were indeed the case. Mr Opdal commented that there were many constraints to work within when designing a tower in the City. He went on to state that the revised scheme would lead to improved wind conditions and sat well within the LDMF and townscape views. Members were informed that the Western tower, the Eastern tower and the proportion of this newly proposed building were very important and that the applicant needed to have a well- proportioned building that improved the townscape. The Western tower was therefore slightly higher than the consented scheme to improve the look and feel of the building and also how it works.
Mr Stephen Friel of GIA reported that he had been involved in this scheme quite extensively from the beginning and that, as part of this, had gone to great lengths to provide details of the true existing versus the proposed scheme and that of the consented baseline versus the proposed scheme. Members were informed that the details of the analysis had been heavily documented within an ES chapter, an addendum and a stand-alone report and that, since then, GIA had also responded twice to various submissions of objection. Mr Friel went on to underline that the baseline versus the proposed scheme did, as Officers had pointed out, present major adverse impacts from a daylight and sunlight perspective. However, what was not clear within this was the discussion around the overage and the change between the consented scheme and the proposal. Mr Friel noted that the objector had today referred to a lot of statistics in relation to the percentage alterations but he felt that a pertinent way to address these might be to talk about the general, overall compliance. Mr Friel went on to report that within the submitted consented scheme, the vertical sky component had a 72% compliance ratio to the BRE guidelines in VSC. This was reduced by 4% to 68% within the proposed scheme. Looking at the second, no skyline methodology, the consented scheme had circa 91% compliance rates and the latest submission also had just under 91% compliance. Using this particular methodology, there were just two additional rooms that fell short of the guidance. Turning attention to the average daylight factor - a methodology submitted throughout the One Crown Place and 2 Finsbury Avenue submissions, the Committee were informed that the consented scheme achieved 84% and this scheme reduced this to 81%. In terms of looking at the numbers, Mr Friel stated that when the applicant identified where there were changes these were considered to be small. He went on to note that the objector had mentioned, in their latest submission and in their speech today, that there were a number of LKDs that fell below in excess of 40% VSC and generally retained very poor VSC levels that fell below the BRE criteria for NSL. Mr Friel reported that this was picked up in the corresponding table and responded to in the latest addendum circulated to the Committee. It was underlined that the seven rooms identified in the objector’s latest submission did not contain a comparison between the consented scheme and that of the latest proposal. Whilst it was therefore important that those seven rooms were looked at in more detail, the difference between the consented scheme and the latest proposal was 1% on each of the windows identified. Furthermore, when attention was turned to those seven rooms using the no skyline methodology, three of the rooms were found to actually experience a better level of daylight, one identified no change and three experience a change of less than 1%.
A Member questioned how much consultation had been undertaken with neighbours, particularly with the objectors to the north of the site, and over what period of time. Nick Philips of British Land reported that during the design and development phase of the 2018 consented scheme, there had been extensive negotiations with One Crown Place. The result of this was a set of design principles that had been carried over to the new scheme, specifically the 11metre sky gap between the two towers which, at the time, had been very important to One Crown Place because of the views that would be preserved out of some of the apartments in that scheme. The applicant was therefore a little surprised to learn of One Crown Place’s objections because they were of the view that this scheme was a significant improvement. However, since 2019, there had been constant engagement between the two teams, specifically regarding impacts on light of this scheme on One Crown Place. It was therefore always clear to the objector that the design development process was underway for a new scheme. Mr Philips explained that engagement continued throughout 2020 and culminated in the exchange of a frozen 3D model in September 2020 to enable One Crown Place to complete their own analysis and, subsequently, British Land had met directly with the owners’ team to present their daylight/sunlight analysis and to answer any questions that they had.
Another Member pressed further on the impact of the development on amenities in the City. She questioned whether the applicant had carried out a Health Impact Assessment examining the health implications for those working within the building and also for the surrounding community and the amenities required. Whilst she recognised that this was not yet a formal requirement, she noted that a number of developers were already undertaking these. The Member went on to state that the key issue for her were the proposed terraces at high level and she questioned what mitigation measures and thought had been given to suicide risk. Mr Meadows reported that a Health Impact Assessment had been carried out. With regard to the design of the terraces and any suicide risk, Members were informed that 2m high balustrades were proposed – in part for wind mitigation but also to mitigate against these risks.
Seeing no further questions of those speaking in support of the application, the Chair asked that the Committee now move to questions of Officers and the general debate.
A Member who also represented the Ward in which this scheme was proposed stated that it was important to look at this application in the round and noted that, across the Broadgate campus as a whole, plans for a very substantial garden to be built behind Liverpool Street Station had already been approved. He went on to underline that he was very pleased that the developer was beginning to look at the supply chain for the building, where materials came from and the impact of this on the overall footprint of this development. The Member reported that he had deliberated these plans with his fellow Ward Members and that there was unanimous support for this application amongst them. He added that he personally felt that it would change the whole dynamic of the Bishopsgate estate from being a sort of fortress into a much more open and inclusive environment. He noted that the dynamic of the businesses in this area had also changed significantly in recent years with the increase in FinTech companies seeping in from nearby Shoreditch and the introduction of others such as gaming developers and felt that the introduction of this building would add further to this momentum.
Another Member spoke to state that he felt that there was much to commend this application, not least its environmental and energy efficiency credentials and the much needed additional space that it proposed. With regard to daylight and sunlight, the Member noted that a set of agreed design principles had been referred to by the applicant as having been agreed with the neighbouring residential development. He asked whether Officers could confirm if, from their perspective, these design principles had been applied to this new scheme. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director responded by confirming that, in the negotiations of the consented scheme there had been amendments to bevel the building back in order to create a generous gap between the two towers and that this had, very largely, been brought over into the newly proposed scheme. The Member interrogated Officers further, questioning whether the goalposts had been moved under these new proposals and whether this was compliant with policy and whether the design principles already agreed with the neighbouring development had been adhered to. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director responded further to confirm that there had been no moving of goalposts and reiterated that the gap between the two buildings was very largely retained as per the agreement with the applicant at the time of the consented scheme. He also reported that this was in complaince with policy on daylight and sunlight which noted that it was difficult to achieve certain levels of daylight and sunlight within this dense urban setting.
Another Member raised a question regarding the Learning Hub to which quite a substantial amount of space would be allocated. She questioned what would happen if this space were not to be well utilised and whether this could lead to the developer requesting that it be put to a different use. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director highlighted that it was expected that this use class and the open Learning Hub would be functioning throughout the life of this building. Whilst discussions were always open with developers in terms of refining or improving uses, this and things such as the appropriate promotion of this space would be dealt with within the Visitor Management Plan and the Operational Plan. In response to a further question from the Member, the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director stated that it was expected that the Learning Hub would be an integral part of this scheme in perpetuity. If, however, the developer was to suggest an alternative use for the space, this would need to be reported back to the Committee following an assessment from Officers into why this space was not operating successfully. Officers added that there was no review mechanism and that this offering was part of the proposal and would be secured via Section 106. The Member noted that she still had some concerns around this. The Comptroller and City Solicitor reported that Officers would expect to see arrangements around the communication strategy and details of pro-active promotion to ensure adequate engagement with the Learning Hub set out within the Section 106 covenants and the Management Plan which would be monitored and with which the developer would be expected to comply.
A Member questioned what impact the occupation of this building could be expected to have on Finsbury Square. He recognised that this was outside of the City but questioned if there was any scope for Section 106 monies to be utilised to enhance the offering here. Secondly, with regard to the covered areas at ground floor level (including the new pedestrian north-south footpath), the Member questioned what provisions would be put in place to discourage antisocial behaviour in these spots, particularly at night. Finally, with regard to the Learning Hub, the Member questioned how the operation of this was to be funded.
In terms of Finsbury Square, the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director commented that there was no reason why the CIL money could not be used to enhance this area and that these discussions would be progressed with the developer. In terms of the surveillance of the public realm, it was reported that this would be covered within a Management Plan that would need to be adhered to. Officers added that British Land already had a significant amount of surveillance in place across the estate at present. With regard to the funding of the operation of the Learning Hub, Members were informed that this would also be secured through the Management Plan and that it was expected that the costs would be managed by the developer and other stakeholders to be brought in.
Another Member spoke to state that he liked the concept of the building, the way that it flowed and the plans for the ground floor. He went on to question what Officers were doing to ensure that as many of the old materials as possible were being recycled. He also expressed some concern as to the urban greening factor being below target and on wind conditions. The Member asked if Officers were able to push harder in terms of urban greening in order to reach the target and insist upon further tree planting at street level for example. With regard to materials, the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that there was a specific condition within the decision notice around the need to submit details of a recycling plan which would include the recycling of construction materials. In terms of the urban greening it was reported that Officers were very focused on meeting the target of 0.3. It was recognised that the point around greening at street level was very important and that the planting of trees along Bishopsgate for example could have a much wider public benefit. This was something that Officers would therefore be exploring with the developers.
A Member spoke to state that he remained unclear on exactly how the Committee were supposed to consider the impact of this development on light to One Crown Place. He sought further clarity on whether Members should be looking at the delta between the two schemes (the consented and the proposed) or whether they should be looking at the absolute effect over what was currently in existence. In terms of the absolute and the cumulative impact, Officers stated that the report was clear that they were comparing the baseline condition of the existing situation with the proposed scheme which was where the major adverse impacts had been identified. Officers stated that this was clearly a material consideration for the Committee but added that there was also a consented scheme in place which had therefore also been assessed in terms of cumulative impact. The Comptroller and City Solicitor added that it was material to look at the existing baseline in order to assess the impacts on One Crown Place and other areas but, with the background that there was already a consented scheme which played into the weight that the decision maker gave to the impacts assessed from this existing baseline.
Another Member spoke to suggest that this application was less problematic in planning terms than any others that the Committee had seen in recent months. He noted that it would have a major adverse effect on daylight and sunlight to a number of flats in a tower block that was currently under construction opposite this site but stated that this effect was less egregious in the context of flats located in an isolated, mixed-use block than in the context of a major residential area such as the Barbican or Golden Lane. He went on to state that this development would have a negative effect on certain views and on the setting of nearby listed buildings but recognised that this effect was at the lower end of the scale compared with the effects of The Tulip for example or the two other schemes most recently approved by this Committee. He stated that this development was objectionable on the ground of design and was architecturally incoherent but felt that poor design was a feature of many of the more recent buildings in the City. The Member concluded by stating that, on balance, he considered that the faults of this application were not sufficient to merit a refusal.
Another Member commented that this particular application was clearly part of a Masterplan for Broadgate and that this should be looked at in totality. He added that, when taking into account all of the material considerations, the application fared very positively on the vast majority of these with the exception of loss of light as had already been touched upon. He went on to state that he felt that the important point here was the delta over the consented scheme which appeared to be quite marginal meaning that this proposal was, in his view, worthy of support.
Another Member commented that he had initially been concerned by the breakout of this space from the City Cluster but that, given the fact that One Crown Place was now in place, he felt that this would be more in order. He stated that he was of the view that this was a stunning building which would serve as a great anchor point to the north of the City. He reiterated the point that this was not a standalone project but part of a carefully curated campus with a whole variety of different styles and open space and added that he hoped that this application would be approved today.
A Member began by stating that she liked the design of the building but added that she did still have some concerns around wind impact and sought some assurances from Officers that it would be the responsibility of the landowner to adequately deal with any additional wind created by this building that had not been foreseen by the modelling. With regard to the Learning Hub being in place in perpetuity for the lifetime of the building, the Member commented that she had previously seen developers proposing galleries and the like and then, six months later, after unsuccessfully marketing the space, plans returning to this Committee requesting a change of use. She added that this was a fundamental, community asset for this building and sought assurances that the community would therefore be able to access this space in whatever form it takes for the lifetime of the building. The Comptroller and City Solicitor reported that the drafting of any requirements had not yet begun as this was subject to the Committee’s opinion. However, in terms of the availability of the facility and this being free of charge to the community and proactively promoted, this had been covered in the draft Section 106 for The Tulip which was an example of where these provisions had been put in place. The same could therefore be sought here and the applicant team present today were well aware of the strength of feeling from the Committee on this. The Member commented that, where these matters were wrote into Section 106, they tended to be delegated to Officers without the Committee seeing or approving any proposed changes. She therefore sought assurances that the concerns, comments, wants and wishes of this Committee would feature in the document and that, if the applicant were not to sign this, they would not be granted planning permission and the matter would be referred back to this Committee. The Comptroller and City Solicitor confirmed that this would certainly be the practice and that those tasked with preparing these documents would not be prepared to execute something that was not consistent with the express wishes of the Committee unless they had come back to Members and explained what the issues were and given them an opportunity to review things and grant authority to enter into something different.
The Chair highlighted that, if the application were to be approved, the resolution of the Committee would refer to the Section 106 negotiations. The Comptroller and City Solicitor added that any resolution to grant is subject to the Section 106 agreement being completed and that the Committee would resolve to delegate the negotiation of this. Without the Section 106 in place, planning permission would not be issued and the agreement would need to reflect the decision of the Committee and any discussion at the meeting to ensure that it was intra vires.
With regard to the wind modelling, the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that the headline here was that this had resulted in acceptable wind conditions. He further reassured the Committee by highlighting that two conditions were proposed around further details of mitigation measures to be introduced in the form of landscaping and the need for a post construction wind audit to be submitted in case any unforeseen impacts should arise. Officers added that they would make every endeavour to work alongside the applicant to address these as they arose.
The Committee then proceeded to vote on the recommendations before them within this 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 – 22 Votes
OPPOSED – 1 Vote.
There were no abstentions.
(1) That the Chief Planning Officer be authorised to grant planning permission
for the above proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached
schedule, subject to:
a) The Mayor of London being given 14 days to decide whether to allow the
Corporation to grant planning permission as recommended, or to direct
refusal, or to determine the application himself (Article 5(1)(a) of the Town &
Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2008);
b) 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
(2) That your Officers be instructed to negotiate and execute obligations in
respect of those matters set out in "Planning Obligations" under Section 106
and any necessary agreements under Section 278 of the Highway Act 1980.
(3) That your Officers be authorised to provide the information required by
regulations 29 of the Town and Country Planning (Environmental Impact
Assessment) Regulations 2017, and to inform the public and the Secretary of
State as required by regulation 30 of those regulations.