Report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director
The Committee considered a report of the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director in respect of 200 Aldersgate, London EC1A 4HD – specifically, the installation of a new pedestrian access and bridge link to the existing rear courtyard. The Town Clerk advised that an addendum containing late representations and an additional condition, and the officer’s presentation, had been circulated to Members in advance.
The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director then introduced the application to Members and presented the officer’s report, informing the Committee about the details of the scheme and its wider implications and outlining the reasons for the officer’s recommendation. The officer’s recommendation was that the Committee resolve to grant planning permission, in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule.
The Chairman then invited the Committee to ask questions of officers and debate the application. A Member commented that the most contentious aspect of the scheme appeared to be the increase in footfall, and suggested signage making clear to those using the bridge and courtyard that there were residents in the proximity. The Member added that music would not be allowed, but events involving up to 150 people were likely to create excessive noise. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that informatives for the management plan could be added on signage, and that there was scope to reduce the permissions on capacity.
In response to a question from the Chairman, the Chief Planning Officer and Development Director confirmed that all statutory consultation had been undertaken and responses represented. There were currently no restrictions on Cross Key Square and no conditions relating to the existing building. Data monitoring with regards to the use of the bridge would form part of the conditions and officers would have access to this data. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director also confirmed that Temporary Event Notice (TEN) applications would be made through the Licensing department, and that there were currently no restrictions on events, with Environmental Health complaints being the only existing recourse. In response to a question from a Member, the Committee was advised that the Environmental Health team had been consulted and were not aware of any previous complaints involving the location, although there had been some concern over plant noise investigated in the past.
A Member raised their concerns about the consultation process, the statutory consultation having been undertaken in 2020 during Covid-19, adding that whilst there may not have been an obligation to do so, the consultation should have been undertaken again as a courtesy, given much could change in two years. The Member queried whether the courtyard space was intended as amenity space for respite, or a hospitality space, as they objected to the implied hospitality element, which could be satisfied elsewhere, such as on roof terraces. A large number of people talking in an enclosed space would create a lot of noise, and noise mitigation measures would be difficult to enforce. The Member added that if the proposal was for a genuine amenity space to provide a peaceful place to the benefit of worker’s mental health, this would be acceptable. The Member proposed several conditions to be added to prohibit alcohol, prevent the use of the space for hospitality, and limit access to between 10am and 6pm.
The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that the application was in respect of the bridge and the door to the courtyard, and that there were currently no restrictions on the use of the courtyard. The management plan would introduce wider restrictions with the current access times in line with office hours at 8am-7pm, with no access at weekends or on bank holidays, and would also allow for a range of measures to assist with management of the space if needed.
A Member commented that they welcomed the proposal as the space was underutilised and residents could be adequately protected. The Member queried what restriction on TEN events were in place, adding that sufficient detail would be required in the management plan to enable an appropriate level of enforcement. Another Member commented that they liked the idea of the proposal and asked whether conditions only applied to access via the bridge, or whether access via the previous route could also be controlled. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that condition 2 related to the link bridge and did not preclude other routes of access, whereas condition 3 related to the courtyard as a whole. The management plan would also cover the use of the courtyard.
A Member queried how much effort reconsulting would have taken, and the amount of prior notice that would have been required, before asking for further detail on enforcement. The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that there was one dedicated planning enforcement officer, for whom details could be forwarded to Members. A statutory consultation had been undertaken, with letters, site notices and advertisements being circulated as required. A number of comments were received and were taken on board, although the length of time between the consultation and submission of the application was regrettable and officers had wished for it to be considered in shorter order.
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.
A Member commented that they endorsed the conditions suggested previously by a Member, the presentation having demonstrated residents’ immediate proximity to the courtyard, meaning that noise was likely to be substantial. The Member added that there had been no significant use of the courtyard previously, and the purpose of the application was to increase usage. There were currently no restrictions because of the very limited use of the courtyard which was a natural control. The Member added that there had previously been a table tennis table in the courtyard which had had to be removed, and suggested that in addition to the management plan mitigation measures such as planters should be included, as there were listed buildings backing on to the courtyard which would have features such as single-pane windows. The Member said that there needed to be more recognition of the impact on residents in the vicinity and that the applicant could be doing more.
A Member commented that it was positive that the Committee had scope to add conditions on the courtyard, as this would change how the space was used. The Member added that such conditions had not been necessary before, and that they endorsed the conditions suggested and seconded by other Members on hours of access and restricting, also suggesting that condition 2 also be applied to the courtyard, and that numbers be always limited to a maximum of 50 people.
In response to a comment from a Member, the Chairman suggested that officers had received the Committee’s steer on what should be included in the management plan, and that the Committee should not need to agree it in its entirety. Upon confirming that the conditions suggested previously around hours of access for the link bridge and courtyard, restricting usage for hospitality, permitted numbers and the consumption of alcohol were formally moved and seconded, the Chairman moved the Committee to a vote on the first three amendments, proposing that the consumption of alcohol be separated out, pending legal advice.
The Committee then proceeded to vote on the proposed amendments to the conditions; that condition 2 should restrict use for hospitality and also be applied to the courtyard in addition to the link bridge, that the hours of access stated in condition 2 be amended to 10am-6pm, and that condition 4 be amended so that no more than 50 people were permitted at any time. Nineteen Members voted for the amendments, and 1 Member voted against the amendments, with no abstentions. The amendments were therefore agreed.
With regards to restricting the consumption of alcohol, the Comptroller and City Solicitor advised that this would be difficult to enforce or to justify on planning grounds. A Member commented that measures such as an Open Space Protection Order could be applied, and felt that such a restriction could be implemented successfully. The Committee then proceeded to vote on the proposed amendment to the conditions to prohibit the consumption of alcohol in the space, with 6 Members voting in favour of the amendment, 9 voting against the amendment, and three Members abstaining. The amendment was therefore lost.
A Member then suggested that the management plan also considered informatives on matters such as signage, smoking and lighting. The Deputy Chair responded that condition 5 was clear in this regard, and that the Committee had given its steer on the need to minimise disturbance. The Deputy Chair advised against introducing too many restrictions, as this may open the decision to challenge.
The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director advised that officers would draft an informative to accompany the decision which would incorporate Member comments, and that elements such as planting and smoking would be taken into account.
Arising from the discussion, the Committee then proceeded to vote on the application, with conditions amended as per the Committee’s agreement, with 12 Members voting in favour of the recommendations as amended, 3 members voting against the recommendations as amended, and 2 abstentions.
RESOLVED – That the Planning & Transportation Committee agree that planning permission be granted for the above proposal in accordance with the details set out in the attached schedule, as amended.