A Member referred to a recent email received from Officers regarding the completion of the Riverside Walkway in Queenhithe – something which he had been campaigning on for 22 years now and which was due for completion this Autumn. The email recently received suggested that the budget was in place to raise orders for the next design stage but that the Corporate Finance Team had blocked these orders due to the project programme dates in the financial system having expired. It recognised that recent Committee reports had set out a programme for delivery in Autumn/Winter 2021 but that this issue may now cause slippage. The Committee supported the Member in stating that this was unacceptable. The Chair stated that he would be happy to deal with this matter under urgency if that would help to resolve it.
Officers commented that they were aware of the issue and that an urgent meeting had been called with colleagues in the Corporate Project Team and the Chamberlain’s Department to discuss this further and seek to resolve at pace. The Chairman of the Finance Committee also undertook to raise this with the Chamberlain at a meeting later today.
Refurbishment versus Redevelopment
A Member commented that, when considering applications, the Committee were increasingly told by Officers that refurbishment had been looked at initially but subsequently decided against in favour of redevelopment. He questioned whether it might be possible to establish some sort of qualifying criteria for proposals coming forward so that Members could better understand where the line between refurbishment and redevelopment was crossed. Another Member agreed that this would be helpful but also suggested that this should take account of other valid factors such as land utilisation, economics and whole life carbon impact. Another Member stated that part of the problem here was that many existing buildings, such as that involved in today’s application, had undergone undocumented modifications to their structure which made it difficult to adopt a homogenous approach to this. Another Member spoke to agree that this was not simple but underlined that it was for this very reason that Members needed to be able to better understand the issues and limitations before weighing up any pros and cons. She also added that the information presented on each application seemed to differ each time and called for metrics to be presented consistently wherever possible. The Member went on to request a future paper for this Committee setting out the whole life carbon impact of the buildings approved since the Climate Action Strategy had been implemented (to the extent that it was known). Her understanding was that the City Corporation had already received a Freedom of Information request in relation to this and that Officers had responded to say that it was not possible to provide this. She stressed that it was important for this Committee to understand the cumulative impact of their decisions, much like they had done recently with cycling provision which had enabled Members to express a firm view to Officers that could, in turn, be fed through to developers and ensure that their proposals were compliant. The Chair responded to state that the London Plan mentioned this. He reported that the City Corporation were dealing with emerging policy here but that when he met with any applicant his starting point was always to stress that it should not be assumed that any building in the City could be demolished and that, where technically possible, it should be retained if justified by the evidence relating to environmental, social and economic sustainability. The Chair stated that he had heard the wish of the Committee whereby each application was presented from a refurbishment or partial redevelopment point of view with details of this also included within the Officers report alongside the differing whole life carbon impacts so that the Committee could fully understand why a building might need to be demolished.
The Chief Planning Officer and Development Director spoke to state that he thought that what was being proposed was entirely sensible and appropriate. He reassured the Committee that the first few meetings of any PPA was to look at exactly this and the options around refurbishment and embedded carbon implications etc. He accepted he argument that this information should come through to Members as part of the application and that there should be more discipline and clarity in the process. He undertook to discuss the possibility of developing a toolkit/planning advice note to provide a clear picture on all of the options and how these had been explored with sustainability officers.
A Member commented that she had first raised this as an issue several years ago and noted that it still featured on the Committee’s list of outstanding actions. She reiterated her request for this piece of work to be formalised, stressing that residents and businesses in the City had to face the impact of developments approved by this Committee which could be quite considerable. She went on to report that residents were now also receiving last minute notice letters informing them of works that were to be carried out throughout the whole weekend and late into the night with no consultation and called for communications to be improved. She also called for policies around enforcing and monitoring construction sites and building works to be tightened and implemented.
The Chair added that there was also a wider point here around dovetailing works and, if there were to be Construction Management Plans, looking at any cumulative effects on residential areas in particular and intervening where necessary/appropriate.
The Development Liaison Manager reported that since she had been in post, from October 2020, she had been working in the background to coordinate efforts between Transport, Environmental Health and Planning to identify which schemes were coming forward in terms of construction to ascertain how the impact of these could be better and more efficiently managed, ensuring that residents were liaised with at an early stage. Officers undertook to bring forward a report to this Committee next month setting out all of the work happening around this.
The Deputy Chairman reported that, from his own recent experience of ongoing construction works at the Temple, he had been very impressed by the way in which City Officers had worked with the developers to minimise the disruption of this and, where appropriate, intervene and use their powers to enforce policy. The Member responded to report that, in her Ward, there were residents living just 3 meters from construction sites and being told that the developer had agreed with the City Corporation that they were able to work on site until 11pm. Saturday working hours had also been extended and residents were now asking at what point they had a say in this and were entitled to enjoy amenities with no noise disturbance. The Member recognised that Officers were doing their best to try and resolve the issues but it was clear that the issues were mounting with residents reporting that some developers were not adhering to the agreed hours of work. The Chair stated that if any Members were experiencing particular issues within their Wards, he and the Deputy Chairman would like to be made aware of these. The Chair reported that he had intervened on various sites during the lockdown period where issues had been reported. Officers also stressed that they should be informed of any particular issues so that these could be fully investigated. Officers stated that they were aware of the particular site being referred to where extended hours had been requested by the developer to ensure that works were completed as soon as possible around school term time. However, it was underlined that these should still be compliant with what Environmental Health had agreed.
Another Member reported that she had experienced issues with a nearby construction site recently and had reported this to Officers who had responded to and resolved this very quickly. She added that, despite agreements made with developers, there would frequently be issues with contractors not adhering to this which could be difficult to control.