Report of the Director of the Built Environment.
N.B.: The Policies Maps at Appendix 2 (parts A&B) will be available/on display in A3 size at the meeting. Likewise, the Draft Plan itself at Appendix 1 contains various coloured maps and diagrams and so coloured hard copies will also be made available at the meeting.
The Committee considered a report of the Director of the Built Environment seeking agreement for the draft Local Plan, known as City Plan 2036, to be published for public consultation.
The Chairman introduced the item and thanked the Local Plans Sub-Committee for their scrutiny so far. The Plan set out the way forward for the City to enable and service sustainable growth over the coming years. The draft was for Members to agree to publish for consultation before it was brought back to the Committee in Spring 2019.
The Director of the Built Environment introduced the report, and advised Members of larger-scale maps tabled for their reference. A number of typing and cross-referencing errors had already been noted and would be picked up. The Committee was also asked to delegate authority to the Chairman and Deputy Chairman to approve the final draft version to be published for consultation, after Committee Members’ comments had been taken into account.
The document was long but still relatively concise, and conformed generally with national policy and the Mayor of London’s strategic policy approach. The plan complemented the draft Transport Strategy and the two had been prepared in tandem. Land use policies were complemented by transport aims and objectives and it was recommended that the two strategies be read together. A briefing session had been held for Members two weeks previously and a number of changes had been made based on suggestions received. The second draft would be presented next year after considering responses to the consultation, and the document would then be referred to the Planning Inspectorate, before its eventual adoption in 2020.
Two context points were raised for Members. The Plan emphasised the need to plan for sustainable growth in the economy and employment as well as limited housing growth. Intensification would need to be managed successfully, making full use of available space to facilitate efficient movement around the City. The public consultation would run from 12 November 2018 until 28 February 2019.
A Member stressed the need to do the consultation process justice and engage all stakeholders by making it clear what was new, what had changed, and how the new strategies would work together. The Chairman added that the executive summary needed to bring out the highlights.
A Member queried what definition of affordable housing was used in the Housing Policy, and whether the provision of social housing outside the City was off the table.
A Member added that there were many recommendations and future requirements for the Committee to take account of, and that it would be important to be able to refer to and know the document well when considering future applications.
A Member raised a strategic point, that if the Plan committed to two million square metres of extra floor space based on the there being 100,000 extra people in the City over the next 18 years, the Plan should stress that the numbers were a forecast, and could be determined by the Corporation on an ongoing basis based on the evidence. It was also suggested that it was not essential to looking exclusively within the City boundary, and that neighbouring boroughs be encouraged to permit office development that effectively expanded the City. Furthermore, the aspirations on open spaces were good but were too vague. Open spaces could be insisted upon through the development process and the aim should be that open spaces grow at least as fast as the population.
The Chairman added that businesses were not especially concerned with local authority boundaries, noting that there was already some spill-over. The Corporation wanted to benefit London as a whole. There had been meetings with Westminster and Camden about potential ways to co-operate and there would be further meetings with them and other boroughs. It was important not to lose sight of the open spaces issue.
A Member stressed the need to make it easy for the community and stakeholders to engage with the process and suggested lots of pictures online and workshops, with an online consultation process that was easy to navigate.
A Member stated that it would be difficult to absorb significant growth whilst reducing carbon footprint, as realistically more people generated a larger carbon footprint. Whilst there would be new technologies, a zero-carbon economy would be difficult to achieve.
A Member said that pollution was a significant issue in the Eastern part of the City such as Portsoken ward, and the Plan needed to adequately consider the residents that would be caught up in the growth of businesses and population.
A Member queried why the Local Plan and the Transport Strategy had different timeframes if they were complementary, as the Plan was to 2036 and the Transport Strategy to 2043, adding that if it couldn’t be changed then it could be explained why. The Chairman responded that the Local Plan period was prescribed in regulations.
A Member argued that the City would ultimately be shaped by businesses and the demand for space, and the Corporation’s forecasts of growth were no better than other forecasts, particularly given the current uncertainty around Brexit. However, there were still important issues to tackle such as pollution, and therefore it was important to concentrate on the shorter timeframe, to have realistic plans and continue with the central themes. A Member added that whilst the Corporation could not make growth happen, policies needed to be in place that would accommodate it. Whilst financial services jobs had spread out somewhat, recent investment driven by the Far East was a statement of longer-term confidence in the City and enough stock needed to be in place to keep interest.
A Member picked up on the issue of open spaces and asked what comparisons had been made between rooftop viewing galleries and their effect compared to open spaces, as they were not convinced the rooftop viewing galleries were as valuable.
The Director of the Built Environment responded to the points raised. On managing growth and intensification, there was some local discretion but also a requirement to conform generally with regional and national planning policy. The projection of 100,000 extra people was from the Greater London Authority, and whilst it may not turn out to be accurate the City needed to plan for this broad scale of growth. The City’s commercial activities did spread beyond the City boundary so working with neighbouring boroughs was important going forward.
The Local Plan and Transport Strategy would aim to break the link between economic growth and carbon footprint growth by using renewable energy sources and using smart technology to ensure that existing issues were addressed and were not exacerbated. This would also improve air quality. Good growth which does not increase the carbon footprint could be achieved if the right policies were implemented well.
The 15 years set out for the Local Plan was a procedural standard, whilst the Transport Strategy looked further ahead. The aims of both could be fully achieved and they were not in conflict with each other. It was recognised that growth did not all have to be within the City boundaries.
The rooftop viewing galleries were more of a benefit for visitors to the City rather than residents or workers, but this was not necessarily a bad thing, although they could be an issue if they caused congestion. The approach to viewing galleries had recently been revised with an emphasis on amenity space within buildings
The definition used for affordable housing would be included in the glossary when this was added in. The Local Plan put an emphasis on the provision of social housing, reflecting discussions with the Department of Community and Children’s Services. The focus would be on on-site provision rather than contributions elsewhere. Social housing provided outside of the City would not be counted towards the Local Plan targets which are just for the City.
Officers were working on Story Maps for the consultation which were more interactive and engaging. A consultation strategy was being devised and officers were looking at drop-in sessions and social media campaigning amongst other things. The aim was to engage groups that were harder to reach. A Member suggested using aspects of the successful consultations so far on the Transport Strategy and try to reach out to commuters.
Arising from the discussion, the recommendation was then put to the vote amongst eligible Committee Members with 21 voting for and 0 voting against the application, with 1 abstention.
RESOLVED – That the Planning & Transportation Committee:
a) Agree the proposed draft Local Plan as set out at Appendix 1 of the report for public consultation; and
b) Authorise the Director of the Built Environment, in consultation with the Chairman and Deputy Chairman, to make further non-material changes and editorial changes prior to public consultation.