Agenda item

Questions on matters relating to the work of the committee


Signage to Elevated Public Spaces

A Member stated that he felt that signage to elevated public spaces in the City should be improved. He suggested that some buildings with public roof terraces often had inadequate signage directing people to these and added that the City’s own website directed users wanting to access Beech Gardens to Barbican Station when the gardens were not signposted from here. He questioned whether this could be incorporated into the City Plan 2036 in terms of encouraging developers to adequately signpost such offerings.


Officers commented that this could be regarded as a non-material change to the draft City Plan and would seek to incorporate this. He thanked the Member for his thoughts. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director stated that Officers were now more proactively encouraging developers to do just this and had held recent discussions around it with both 50 and 20 Fenchurch Street where the need to highlight the public realm offerings had also been conditioned.


Lifecycle Assessment

A Member questioned whether, as a matter of course, developers/applicants could be asked to provide comparable lifecycle assessments across the two options and details as to which was worse in terms of whole life carbon. She added that having this data set out clearly would help the Committee to reach a view as to whether what was being offered was a genuine public benefit or something that was an inevitable harm but was nevertheless outweighed by public benefit. She added that she understood that there was a programme that enabled this data to be collated relatively easily.


Officers undertook to respond to this matter outside of the meeting.


Emissions Training

A Member stated that she had asked whether a condition could be put in place for 1-12 Long Lane requiring zero emission machinery and that Officers had responded to say that there would be zero emissions in accordance with the London Plan. When the Member had followed up further on this, it transpired that the London Plan NRMM requirement was around low rather than zero emissions. In light of this, she suggested that some training to help the Committee better understand these nuances would be welcome. Officers had also reported that work was being done to ascertain whether there were zero emissions options that could be considered for construction and the Member asked that further updates be provided on this in due course.


The Chair commented that there was clearly much interest in these matters based on the debate today and asked Officers to report back to the Member with further details.


Bishopsgate Judgement

In response to a request for further information on the Bishopsgate judgement, Officers reported that the case, which was brought by two taxi trade organisations, concerned TfL’s May 2020 Streetspace Plan and Guidance and the subsequent A10 Order restricting parts of the Bishopsgate corridor to just buses and cycles.


It was reported that there were five grounds of claim, four of which were successful, broadly these related to:


·         disregarding a material consideration in formulating the Streetspace Plan and Guidance - namely the status and role of taxis being considered as distinct from other motor vehicles.  It was found that the status and roles of taxis had been considered differently in relation to the A10 Order.

·         failure to comply with the Public Sector Equality Duty in considering the impacts of restricting taxis on people with protected characteristics.

·         a breach of taxi driver’s legitimate expectations about the use of roads and bus lanes, particularly as a result of TfL’s bus lane policy to permit taxis to use bus lanes except in exceptional circumstances

·         irrationality – the justification for the Plan, Guidance and A10 Order being conjecture rather than evidence based


Officers undertook to share a copy of the judgement with members of the Committee and reported that the findings were fact-specific, including issues around how the Plan and Guidance had been formulated, and the nature of the A10 and its use by taxis. TfL have indicated that they intend to appeal, and the effect of the judgment has been stayed to allow them time to do so. It was added that TfL had stated that they have no immediate plans to remove any of their existing schemes pending an appeal.


Whilst the judgment concerned the specifics of the TfL guidance, plans and measures, Members were informed that Officers were monitoring the issue, including any potential considerations for the City but it was not felt that there was any imminent response required.


The Member questioned what the fifth ground of claim had been. Officers reported that this concerned taxi driver licences and whether these counted as possession and it was found that there was not sufficient evidence that there was any loss of income incurred.


Busking Noise Nuisance

A Member commented that residents within his Ward had raised concerns as to noise nuisance being created by buskers from across the river Thames who had been told by Southwark Council to direct their amplifiers north. Residents had contacted the City’s Noise Abatement Team who had attempted to request that the volume be lowered but their efforts had been unsuccessful to date. The Member therefore asked Officers to redouble their efforts on this. Officers undertook to respond to the Member separately on this matter.


Departure of the Director of the Built Environment

A Member noted that the Director was soon to leave the City Corporation and requested an update on the structure of the department and staffing levels, particularly given the large number of often complex applicants that were currently progressing. The Interim Chief Planning Officer and Development Director assured Members that he was currently satisfied that his team were adequately resourced and had staff of adequate experience to deal with major, complex schemes.


The Chair reported that the Director would be departing due to changes under the Target Operating Model and highlighted that Jon Averns was now temporarily acting as Chief Officer until such time as an Executive Director to oversee the work of this and other Committees was appointed.


The Member went on to suggest, as she had done previously, that consideration should be given to holding separate, stand-alone meetings to determine large planning applications. The Chair highlighted that the number of meetings scheduled for the Committee this year had already been added to for this reason.