Agenda item

Questions on matters relating to the work of the committee


London Wall West

A Member questioned whether the Committee could be informed who the client body was for this important site which covered Bastion House and the existing Museum of London. He went on to ask for information around the scope of this work and stated that he had been informed that the team had been advised by ‘planners’ that residential accommodation should not be considered as an option here. Given the importance attached to housing and the site location, nearby to existing residential areas, the Member asked whether Officers could clarify that this advice was given and, if so, the basis for it.


The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director clarified that the developer had instigated discussions with the City’s planning team to discuss broad policy and key planning issues and scope the art of the possible on the site. He added that, as Members were well aware, the existing site was a very rich dynamic mix of uses, including the Museum, office space and retail. It was therefore the view of Officers that there was scope for a similarly dynamic mix of uses on the new site to include potentially offices, cultural uses, retail uses and residential uses. Officers did feel that this would be an appropriate site for a residential development or the inclusion of an element of residential accommodation given its close proximity to the City’s important residential communities to the immediate north of the site. Members were informed that Officers were keen to continue to explore possibilities around a richer, more dynamic mix of uses for this site with the developer although it was underlined that, if the developer were to opt to apply for an office-led development, this would not be contrary to policy.


The Member thanked the Chief Planning Officer for clarity on this and confirmation that residential use was not being discouraged by planners.


Radiance Studies

A Member commented that this Committee had, for many years now, been assessing loss of light by a means not necessarily understood by many Members (BRE guidelines).  However, two years ago, an expert consultant retained by the Corporation had first recommended the use of radiance studies as a tool that could be more easily understood. Despite this, the Member noted that the Committee had not yet been provided with a radiance study for any of the several applications it had considered in the last two years where loss of light had been an issue, including the one considered at its last meeting. The Member therefore asked for assurance that, when the Committee next considered an application that entailed a loss of light and for which a BRE assessment had been produced, a radiance study will also have been requested of the applicant.


Another Member spoke to state that the narrative included on this topic under the Committee’s list of Outstanding Actions was entirely consistent with his recollection and the fact that Members had agreed that there needed to be further dialogue with the BRE on their possible adoption of radiance studies and what the legal position would be should they decide against this and the Committee still seek to mandate their use. The Member also felt that City Officers should be fully trained on the technique so that they were able to provide independent advice to the Committee regarding the results of any studies used in future applications.


Another Member underlined that she felt that it was important for Members to have every possible tool at their disposal when considering an application in order to fully understand the implications. She therefore questioned why this matter had not been progressed in the last two years and why developers would resist providing these if it assisted in terms of both Members and the general public understanding the true impact of their scheme.


Officers responded to confirm that they would be requesting radiance assessments from applicants for all future applications where a BRE assessment had been submitted. Members were also informed that Officers continued to discuss the use of radiance assessments with developers at the pre-application and application stage and were also in discussions with the BRE as to the emerging amendments to their daylight/sunlight assessments.


MOTION – The Member who had originally posed the questioned, moved that whenever this Committee considered an application that entailed a loss of light and for which a BRE assessment had been carried out, Officers will also request a radiance study of the applicant.


The Motion was seconded.


The Comptroller and City Solicitor intervened to caution that, when an application was received, there was a list of statutory requirements setting out what was required to validate it. In addition, there was also a local list which was considered and approved by Members. Under statutory requirements, Officers could not refuse to validate an application if the information requested was not referred to on either the local or statutory list. Whilst the Committee could therefore send a strong message to developers on the wish to see them provide this information, it was not currently a policy requirement.


The Member who had proposed the motion clarified that he had never suggested that the validation of a planning application should be questioned because an applicant had been asked to produce a radiance study and had refused to do so as this would clearly be illegal. However, he was calling for a radiance study to be requested for any application which involved a loss of light, and for which a BRE analysis had been produced. If a developer were to refuse this request, he was clear that this matter could not be forced as it was not an obligation. The Committee could, however, reasonably draw an inference as to why they had chosen not to provide this given that it was generally agreed that this was a useful tool.


The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director commented that radiance studies had now been requested for almost every major, relevant scheme that was now due to be considered by this Committee in the coming months and that the views of this Committee had been heard by Officers and developers. Officers also underlined that there was a big difference in terms of requiring and requesting such studies and highlighted that the VSC information was required as the BRE were the national authority on these matters and recommended a certain approach, with Officers therefore requiring developers to provide information in accordance with BRE guidelines. Any additional tools deemed to enhance Members’ understanding and allow them to make a better judgement could, by all means, also be requested. It was confirmed that it was for the BRE to decide whether radiance was a useful tool and to endorse it if they saw fit through their review of national guidelines.


Another Member spoke to agree that this was clearly a useful tool and would enlighten discussions around applications. He therefore supported Officers requesting these but would not wish to push any further at this stage.


The Member withdrew his motion following the assurances from Officers that radiance studies would be requested of applicants for all future, relevant applications that entailed a loss of light.


At this point, the Chair 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.