More office towers will help Destination City, says planning chief

A City Corporation news release accompanying images of the Square Mile skyline in 2030 says more office development is needed to meet demand, and that in addition office towers will support its Destination City programme aimed at attracting visitors.

The Chair of the Planning and Transportation Committee, Shravan Joshi, is quoted:

“Through our flagship ‘Destination City’ policy, we are creating a culturally vibrant, inclusive and welcoming City, enabled in part by these tall towers which help accommodate the hospitality, leisure, social and cultural destinations that are flocking to the City.

The release says: “The new images capture all major developments which have been approved or resolved to approve by the City Corporation over the past 12 months and has been released amid a strong year of activity for the Planning and Transportation Committee, including a 25% increase in the applications received and decided, compared with the same period last year.

“Most of the tall buildings fall within the ‘City Cluster’ area, located in the eastern corner of the Square Mile, which is already home to some of the capital’s most iconic skyscrapers.

“With city worker numbers rising by 29,000 since 2021 and now standing at 617,000 in total, the City Corporation is negotiating development proposals that would provide over 500,000 sqm of much needed office space, equivalent to roughly 70 football pitches, with a further 500,000 already approved and under construction.

“Demand for high quality and sustainable office space remains high, as estimates based on GLA data show that city job numbers should grow by a further 85,000, up to 2040. This is backed by a report from Arup and Knight Frank, showing a need of approximately 1.2m sqm of extra office space in the city by 2040, to accommodate this job growth.”

“As a ‘key area of change’ identified in the City Plan 2040 which is currently being updated, the City Cluster is set to see not just an increase in tall buildings, but also:

  • New pedestrian routes and urban green space;
  • More animated ground floor space for retail, food and beverage outlets; and
  • More educational, cultural and heritage space to celebrate the city’s rich history.

“The Square Mile’s cultural offer has already benefitted strongly from recently opened tall buildings. In the two months since opening, 8 Bishopsgate (The Lookout) and 22 Bishopsgate (22 Horizon) have already welcomed more than 70,000 people to their free-to-access public viewing galleries, which offer spectacular views of London from 50 and 58 storeys high, in a socially and inclusive manner for all communities and visitors:

The planning chair’s quote in full is:

“These new CGI images clearly illustrate the ever-changing nature of London’s incredible skyline. It demonstrates that the City office is here to stay, and that the Square Mile’s real estate sector is robust and thriving, despite wider economic concerns.

“Through our flagship ‘Destination City’ policy, we are creating a culturally vibrant, inclusive and welcoming City, enabled in part by these tall towers which help accommodate the hospitality, leisure, social and cultural destinations that are flocking to the City.

“The City Corporation’s strong performance this year is underpinned by the Built Environment team’s efforts to de-risk many of the variables associated with real estate investment. This includes providing clear policy directives, working closely with stakeholders and undertaking transparent consultation on schemes.”

There’s a public meeting on November 7 about Destination City, organised by Cripplegate Ward. I understand that a City Question Time meeting that was to be on the same date is being moved. Update: The City Question Time event has moved to December 14 6pm at the Old Bailey, with a festive celebration afterwards. Sign up here for either or both events.

Comments on the City Corporation tweet are negative. While the City and the property industry make a strong case for more high quality office space, residents in Cripplegate Ward – including the Barbican – are particularly sensitive to office development. The City scrapped plans for a Centre for Music on the site of the Museum of London and is proceeding with plans for more than 700,000 sq ft of office space. More here on the scheme, and the Barbican Quarter Action campaign against.

The main focus of Destination City is on how to attract more visitors in order to increase consumer leisure spending that has been hit by working from home. Presentation here. The September 7 meeting is the first opportunity for residents to hear how the programme may affect them, and how they may be involved.

Although the City Property Association has released a report about street-level improvements that could relate to Destination City, there is as yet no official explanation that I can find of benefits for residents. More explanation could provide useful context for the remarks about office towers.

A well-run workshop in June, about the City Plan 2040, invited residents to discuss:

  • How effective do you think public realm improvements, temporary events and the delivery of interesting spaces through planning will be at making the city a more desirable place to live, work and visit?
  • Do you think some areas in the Square Mile are more in need of cultural investment than other?
  • What is your experience of being in the City? What type of uses and spaces you value the most? – what works and what doesn’t?
  • How can transport and street environment contribute to improving cultural activities and the experience of spending time in the Square Mile?

A report-back is promised within the next month or so.

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