City approves London Wall West scheme – but Gove orders a pause

Update: The City Corporation posted on Twitter/X “The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has lifted the Section 31 Holding Direction on the London Wall West planning application and decided not to call-in the application. We will now progress with issuing permission to allow works to commence on site”. May 17 2024. The Barbican Quarter Action Campaign responded: that “the fight does not stop here. We will use all remaining avenues available to halt this shapeless, rapacious scheme. Watch this space!”

The City of London planning committee yesterday voted to approve plans for a major office-led scheme to replace the former Museum of London and Bastion House.

However Secretary of State Michael Gove has order a pause while he considers whether to call the plans in for an inquiry. City of London news release here. Reports:

Below is an update email from the Barbican Quarter Action Campaign:

City of London marks its own homework and gives itself an A+….. but Mr. Gove may disagree

The City Planning Applications Sub-Committee voted 16 to 8 (with one abstention) to approve the London Wall West scheme yesterday. However in a last minute intervention, the Secretary of State issued an Article 31 Holding Direction, which gives him the right to call in the application for determination under Article 71 of the Town and Country Planning Act.

This means that, whilst the City has granted itself planning permission, a Decision Notice cannot be issued until the Secretary of State decides whether or not to call it in. If it is called in then of course everything goes on hold until after the public enquiry. We have no indication of what Mr. Gove’s decision will be or how long it will take to be made.

The meeting was very well attended and the case for the objectors was brilliantly and professionally put by Estelle Dehon KC and David Rees KC and then with passion and forensic detail by Councillors Liz King and Naresh Sonpar. Despite the number of objections to the scheme and the clarity of our arguments, there was a vote by the committee to abandon the usual debate that should take place between the members after all the presentations and further questions have finished and instead move directly to a vote. There are those who might well feel this is a dereliction of the democratic duties of the committee and indeed this point was made very forcefully by one of its own members.

If you wish you can watch the whole meeting here.

For the record here is the official statement the BQA issued following significant interest from local and national press:

We are obviously disappointed at the decision taken today, but not surprised given that this came from a local authority whose Planning and Development Director, Gwyn Riachards, restated at today’s meeting that the City of London does not recognise the climate emergency. 

The Chair of the Committee chose to close down the debate so members were not allowed to discuss the application amongst themselves. A number of members requested that numerous conditions should be applied to the application to safeguard residents, heritage and the townscape, but these requests were rejected and will be agreed separately with the developer if the developer chooses to accept them. 

We hope that the SoS will now move to call this application in. The City is both applicant and the local planning authority and as such this complex and contested scheme must be subject to the highest levels of scrutiny. 

This battle is by no means over. There were many significant failings and anomalies in the application and the Officers’ Report and we will be taking advice in the next few days as to what our next steps should be and will of course be in touch to update you to update you and let you know what you can do.

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