Report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director.
Prior to the Committee considering a report of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director regarding the proposed development of Bury House, 31 Bury Street, London, EC3A 5AR, specifically the demolition of the existing building and construction of a new building comprising 2 basement levels (plus 2 mezzanines) and ground floor plus 48 upper storeys (197.94 AOD) for office use (Class E), flexible retail/café use (Class E), publicly accessible internal amenity space (Sui Generis) and community space (Sui Generis); a new pedestrian route and new and improved Public Realm; ancillary basement cycle parking, servicing and plant, a Member raised a point of order and stated that, having read the report and supporting documents, he would find it difficult to make an informed judgement on the application without the benefit of visiting the site, particularly the area around the synagogue. Given that it was likely that a site visit would soon be possible as pandemic restrictions continued to be eased, he questioned whether the Deputy Chair could ask the applicant and the objectors speaking today whether they would object to a deferral of the application to enable this to happen prior to the consideration of the report. Two other Members spoke to endorse these comments.
The Deputy Chair referred Members to late representations, specifically one which referred to the possibility of a site visit. The Deputy Chair stated that he understood the concerns raised and sought the views of the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director on this proposal.
The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director stated that he was of the view that there was sufficient information before Members for them to be able to make an informed decision on the application. He added that it was nevertheless open to Members to request a site visit if they felt that it would enhance their understanding of the application. He did, however, caution that this was an extremely challenging site at present as it was a building site with scaffolding erected around all four elevations of the synagogue up to parapet level. The interior also had scaffolding meaning that it would not be possible for Members to get an idea of the light levels and the true impact upon buildings in the backdrop. He continued by reporting that he had discussed this possibility with the Rabbi and the Rabbi had advised that the internal scaffolding would be removed in July and it was therefore felt that it would not be unreasonable to defer consideration of the application for a site visit by Members. He added that one of the key issues was the historic and religious significance of the interior.
The Deputy Chair welcomed any further views and contributions from Members.
A Member questioned whether the deferral of the application would necessitate a further, additional meeting of the Committee later in the year given the already very busy schedule in terms of applications coming forward. The Deputy Chair stated that his understanding was that a site visit would not be possible until July when the internal scaffolding was removed and that the application would not therefore return to Committee until September 2021 at the earliest.
A Member questioned whether it would be appropriate to hear the views of the applicant on this proposal. The Deputy Chair stated that he was reluctant to open any debate at this stage as this was a matter for the Committee at this stage. He questioned whether the Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director had had the opportunity to discuss the matter of a deferral with the applicant. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that he had and stated that the applicant would clearly be disappointed with a deferral but that they understood the rationale behind this.
All Members of the Committee present indicated that they were in favour of deferring the application pending a site visit by Members.
A Member questioned whether a more definite date by which the application would be considered could be given for the benefit of the applicant and other interested parties. The Deputy Chair stated that he was very conscious that this application had been submitted in November 2020 and was keen for it to be dealt with in a timely and appropriate manner. In response to the question, that Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director reported that Officers would be comfortable in setting a deadline of 30 September 2021 for the application to be considered.
A Member referred to the Jewish holidays set to take place in the September/October period and asked that any deadline for the consideration of the application take these into account. The Deputy Chairman assured those present that this would be the case.
RESOLVED – That the application be DEFERRED for consideration until Autumn 2021 pending a Member site visit to be scheduled for July 2021.