Memorandum submitted by the City of London
1. The City of London's principal concerns
about this Bill relate to the enhancement of the Mayoral planning
powers contained in Part 7. The City also has some concerns about
future arrangements for the Museum of London contained in Part
9, and seeks reassurance about the operation of the housing strategy
dealt with in Part 6. The City also wishes to comment on the provisions
in Part 6 on waste.
2. The City has made clear during the consultation
process and since that in its view, no case has been made for
fundamental change in the current operation or delivery of the
3. The City Corporation is urging the development
community to invest in the City to provide the new office stock
that London critically needs for the expansion of its international
financial services firms. The City Corporation is doing all it
can to provide certainty, flexibility and quick decisions throughout
the property cycle. This is particularly important at times of
strong economic activity when the development community needs
to be lining up new schemes which will be ready when occupiers
require them. They are concerned to capture an investment window
and maximising the prospects of engaging them in putting forward
cutting edge schemes requires speed and certainty in the planning
4. The City's continued attractiveness as
a financial and business centre in part depends on its ability
to provide the sort of accommodation that the international financial
community requires. The more troublesome that is procedurally,
the less attractive it will be for the developers who are able
to initiate projects of the sort the City needs to devote their
efforts to the London market.
5. The City has sought to be constructive
in approaching the Government's proposals to increase Mayoral
involvement. In that spirit the City has engaged in discussions
about changes which might be made to them to minimise added delay,
uncertainty and cost.
6. In that context, the changes which the
City believes to be needed to the current proposals are set out
at paragraphs 13-20 below.
Current legislation on Mayoral involvement in
City planning applications
7. Current legislation under the Town and
Country Planning (Mayor of London) Order 2000 gives the Mayor
a power of intervention to refuse certain planning applications.
These are confined to applications `of potential strategic importance'.
8. These include applications for large
commercial buildings. In the City, however, the threshold which
triggers the Mayoral power to intervene is greater than elsewhere
in Greater London (30,000 sq metres total floorspace in the City
as against 20,000 sq metres elsewhere). High buildings also trigger
Mayoral involvement but again the threshold is set higher in the
City than elsewhere in Greater London (a height of 75 metres as
against 30 metres).
9. These differentials recognise the City's
distinct demography and the overall legislative aim of confining
the field of application of the Mayoral power to what is actually
strategic. The City believes that this recognition of the Square
Mile's distinctive character should continue under the new regime
introduced by the Bill. Alterations to the existing thresholds
for Mayoral intervention for large or high developments in the
City to reflect the experience of the Mayor of London Order and
current circumstances are proposed at para 15.
The City's specific concerns about the Bill's
10. Part 7 of the Bill significantly extends
the potential for Mayoral involvement in deciding planning applications.
The current power of intervention to direct refusal for applications
of potential strategic importance is enlarged into an entitlement
for the Mayor to direct that he is to be the local planning authority
in respect of such applications (Clause 2A(1) of the Town and
Country Planning Act 1990 inserted by clause 31(2) of the Bill).
11. The City regards it as important that
the meaning of `potential strategic importance' is clear and that
it addresses the particular circumstances of the City. Only by
such an approach will it be possible to assume with confidence
that only those applications which can genuinely be regarded as
strategic in City of London terms will be subject to the Mayoral
12. The Bill anticipates (Section 2A(4)
of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to be inserted by Clause
31(2) of the Bill) an order which will provide clarification of
`potential strategic importance'. That order, or a draft of it,
has yet to appear. The Department for Communities and Local Government
has, however, consulted on the interpretation of the term. According
to the Department's consultative document on the Government's
final proposals for changes to the current Mayoral Order issued
in August 2006, an application of potential strategic importance
in the City will be decided by reference to the current thresholds,
size and height of buildings set out in the Mayor of London Order
(30,000 sq metres of total floorspace and 75 metres in height).
There will, in addition, be a `policy test'.
The consultative document issued in August 2006
(paragraph 29) referred to the criteria for that test as follows?
"In the Mayor's view:
Does the planning application raise
issues of a nature and scale that would significantly impact on
the implementation of specific London Plan policies?; and
Do the issues raised by the application
have significant effects that go wider than a single borough?"
13. As far as the thresholds are concerned,
the City's view is that the existing order sets the bar too low
in the City of 2007 in defining an application of `potential strategic
14. The City Corporation has acknowledged
and established expertise in assessing and determining planning
applications for major office development in the City of London.
None of the applications referred to the Mayor since 2000 in accordance
with existing referral thresholds has raised strategic concerns
which have resulted in the Mayor directing a refusal of the application.
This suggests that the existing referral thresholds are too low
if they are intended to distinguish those applications likely
to raise genuine strategic concerns. Increasing the thresholds
for the City of London would, on the other hand, keep the system
streamlined and free up additional resources for the Mayor to
deal with the truly strategic applications in the City and elsewhere
as speedily as possible.
15. The City therefore takes the view that
the height threshold that triggers referral of City applications
to the Mayor should be increased from 75m to 150m and the floorspace
thresholds from 30,000 to 100,000 square metres of additional
floorspace. Based on the City's experience since 2000 as local
planning authority, these higher thresholds would have triggered
possible Mayoral intervention once or twice a year as being of
potential strategic importance.
16. So far as the proposed Mayoral policy
test to decide whether the Mayor should take over an application
as the local planning authority rather than direct a refusal of
the application is concerned, the City is of the view that the
policy test proposed in the consultation document (set out in
para 12 of this memorandum) should be tightened.
17. Whether an application raises "issues
of a nature and scale that would significantly impact on implementation
of specific London Plan policies" is, in the City's view,
too loose. The City's concern here is that the Mayor should not
intervene just because a development falls foul of one, or even
a few, London Plan policies given there are over 180 of them.
The Mayor should be concerned where there is an overall strategic
impact. "Significant effects ... wider than a single borough"
would result in the capture of schemes which have a small and
certainly not strategic, spatial impact. This would be especially
so in the case of schemes located towards the edge of a local
planning authority's area. For the City, with its small geographic
area, even schemes in its central cluster would be captured notwithstanding
that their effects might extend just a few hundred metres into
a neighbouring borough.
18. The City also thinks that there should
be an additional element to the policy testwhether there
are sound planning reasons which make it necessary for the Mayor
to take over or direct refusal of the application.
19. The word `sound' is a commonly used
term in planning, for example in relation to the testing of Development
20. While the first two tests establish
that an application would have significant impacts on the London
Plan and significant effects which go beyond the local planning
authority boundary, those alone do not necessarily justify the
Mayor taking over an application. Just because an application
has significant effects does not mean that it cannot properly
be dealt with by the local planning authority. The Mayor's judgement
to intervene must, in the City's view, be based on sound planning
reasons and he should be able to show why it is necessary to take
over conduct of an application from the local planning authority.
In the interests of good governance, the Mayor should be obliged
to state these reasons. Guidance on what are sound planning reasons
could be developed in secondary legislation or a Circular.
Planning agreements (s106 agreements)
21. If the Mayor is to lead on the s106
negotiations for the applications he takes over as local planning
authority, the City is of the view that he should abide by the
local policies and guidance which set out how benefits are levied
and distributed. The primary benefit should accrue to the area
in which the development is located, and the Mayor should not
be incentivised to take over an application by the prospect of
being able to influence the levying and distribution of s106 benefits.
22. The City is therefore of the view that
the Bill should define the matters to which the Mayor should have
regard (and in particular the views of the local planning authority)
in applying the proceeds of s106 agreements.
The Museum of London
23. The City has a very strong interest
in the future of the Museum of London, not least because the Museum
is the product of a merger between the City's own Guildhall Museum
and what was originally known as the London Museum. The City has
been a partner in the Museum since its creation by the Museum
of London Act 1965. The City Corporation seeks reassurances over
the independence of the Board of Governors and maintenance of
24. The City Corporation believes that over
the past 40 years the Museum of London has benefited greatly from
being overseen by an independent Board of Governors. The independence
of its Board has afforded the Museum freedom to direct its programmes
and host exhibitions in a way that promotes innovation and quality.
This independence has also allowed the Museum to provide a neutral
forum for debate on contemporary issues. Many day-to-day decisions
on exhibitions and acquisitions are delegated to staff with the
added effect of boosting staff morale. In the City's view it is
therefore essential that in order for the Museum to continue its
success, the independence and primacy of the Board of Governors
is recognised and maintained by the proposals contained in the
25. It is not clear from the change in funding
arrangements that the current grant to the Museum from DCMS will
be effectively ringfenced. If it were not, there would be potential
for the independence of the Museum's governors to be compromised
by funding being made subject to the governors' conduct in carrying
out their functions in particular ways. The City therefore feels
it appropriate to include a statutory guarantee of independence
of the Board of Governors.
26. As with many other cultural attractions
across the nation, the Museum has clearly benefited from increased
visitor numbers derived from the Government's free entry initiative,
which applies only to DCMS sponsored museums. The City Corporation
is keen to ensure that the Museum of London continues to be included
within the terms of this initiative.
27. It is assumed that the DCMS would transfer
resources to the GLA (via DCLG) to allow it to continue funding
the Museum at current agreed levels. It is further assumed that
the transfer of resources would include funding for free access
that DCMS provided to date. The City Corporation would echo the
concerns of the London Assembly that there must be assurances
from Government that the bulk of the funding requirement for the
Museum will come through Revenue Grant and not the Council Tax.
28. The DCMS matches the City of London
Corporation on an equal basis on "core" funding, in
accordance with the Museum of London Act. Each partner is, however,
able to add discretionary elements and both the DCMS and the City
Corporation have made additional funding available to the Museum
in this way as well as additional funding for the Museum in Docklands.
29. The City's view that a process for agreeing
the level of core funding with the GLA needs to be put in place
to make quite clear that no one partner could in future force
through changes to core funding without the agreement of the other.
The City also believes that a default funding formula should be
put in place to ensure that if agreement between the two funding
partners cannot be achieved by a defined date, the following year's
funding is set at the current year's level uplifted by inflation.
That apart, the City Corporation has no issue over the continuation
of the existing practice of allowing an individual partner to
provide elements of funding outside the core for specific projects
and which the other partner is not obliged to match.
30. The City has no issue with the principle
of the London Housing Strategy contemplated by clause 28. The
City is, however, in a unique position on housing provision in
that as primarily a business district much of its housing needs
are met from provision made outside the City. It would in the
City's view be quite inappropriate for any strategy to require
the City to make substantial housing provision inside the Square
Mile given the importance attached to the retention and enhancement
of the City as an international financial and business centre.
31. This point has been recognised in the
Mayor's London Plan (2004) and the Draft Further Alterations to
the London Plan (2006) which exempt the City's special business
cluster from the requirements of the Mayor's mixed use policy
to require housing in office developments. Instead, a City office
development would provide housing off-site as part of a planning
agreement. The Mayor's Early Alterations to Housing Provision
Targets (2006) also acknowledge the City's special position by
allocation to the City a realistic target for new housing within
the City 2007-2016 of 90 units per year. Although the current
Mayor acknowledges the City's special position, the City Corporation
believes that the great importance of safeguarding the City's
future development merits such acknowledgment being based on statute
and that the Bill should provide accordingly.
32. The Bill does not currently provide
for a single waste authority in the Capital. The City is, however,
aware of the Mayor's intention to seek amendments of the Bill
to provide for one. The City opposes such a move and adopts the
views expressed by London Councils on this subject. The City also
wishes to make the specific point that it would be opposed to
any proposal to bring the Londonwide Hazardous Waste Collection
and Disposal Service (which the City took over from the Environment
Agency in 1998) into an over-arching London Waste Authority, were
one to be proposed by amendment to the Bill.