People are often surprised to hear me say that great cities are not made from great buildings alone, given that I’m chairman of a committee responsible for many schemes that define London’s skyline. Of course, the City of London will continue to be home to some of the world’s tallest, most innovative office buildings, but it will take more than towers getting taller to attract and retain domestic and international businesses.
Buildings must be combined with an attractive local environment and we remain committed to protecting the City’s precious historic fabric, including the views of St Paul’s, while enabling cutting-edge development.
Bloomberg’s European HQ, a City ‘groundscraper’ recently named the UK’s best new building and recipient of the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture, reflects this sentiment.
The work with City planners to retain heritage features in the Temple of Mithras, launch cafés and restaurants in its Arcade and create three public spaces all contributed to its award. There is great appetite for this to become the norm.
Last month, the City’s planning and transportation committee was deliberating over Local Plan 2036, which reflects the fact that the Square Mile is growing and open to new business, ideas and ways of working. The local plan aims to make it easier than ever for incubators, start-ups and SMEs to set up here in the next 20 years, promoting office floorspace that is adaptable to the demands of different types of occupiers.
Office space will be complemented by cultural, commercial and retail growth, adding to the City’s vibrant and growing 24/7 evolution. While the press reports on the demise of the UK retail market, the City’s employment growth is driving strong retail demand. Occupiers at recently completed public realm projects at Widegate Street and Lime Street have seen a positive impact on the vitality of their trading environment, increasing footfall and income.
Smart infrastructure investments will become more evident by 2036. Street lighting will be upgraded to cost- and energy-efficient LEDs and planning guidance on lighting will be issued to enable safer, more sustainable and inviting streets.
Key changes identified in the local plan include:
- Liverpool Street will be a thriving office, retail and leisure environment with Broadgate at its core
- Smithfield and Barbican will be transformed by the ‘Culture Mile’ plans announced last year
- Transformation of the skyscraper district, the City Cluster, will be required at ground level when 12,000 more workers will begin commuting to the 22 Bishopsgate in addition to the arrival of the Elizabeth line;
- There is a unique opportunity to refresh Fleet Street to boost its commercial role and heritage
- Aldgate and Tower Gateway will benefit from better cycling facilities, pedestrian connections and public transport capacity
- Blackfriars will gain a large new open space as a result of the Thames Tideway project
- We are exploring how to increase use of the riverside and river by people and businesses.
Once elected members, businesses and residents have responded to these plans, I believe we will have an answer to how we will make the City’s creative energy flourish, support a thriving economy and deliver an outstanding environment.
The City Corporation is constantly improving its service to developers, occupiers and landlords. This includes introducing a single point of contact and online property development toolkit, making it much easier to identify the fees, legal agreements or deposits needed for redevelopment, plus a map displaying current office development in the City.
Yes, the political climate presents many challenges, but also great opportunities for the cities that recognise their existing strengths and are adaptable enough to meet future need, as the City of London has done for centuries.