City Plan 2040
A development plan for the Square Mile
The City of London's new development strategy, aimed at transforming the Square Mile from largely office into a vibrant cultural, retail and leisure hub, has successfully navigated an important planning milestone. The City Plan 2040 received strong support from the City's planning and transportation committee, marking an initial approval in a series of three committee votes required before the long awaited plan is presented for public feedback in Spring/Summer, and then submitted to the Secretary of State in the Autumn. I remember the days when the city was absolutely dead at the weekend - that’s certainly changed (and changing still), and it’s clear from this plan that the ambition is to move the dial a lot further.
A fundamental part of the plan is the creation of over 1.2 million sqm of new office space by 2040, largely concentrated in three designated “key areas of change” (KAOC) suitable for the construction of tall buildings. Much of this new space is expected to be permitted and built in the City cluster, where 22BG is currently wearing the crown of ‘tallest’, but the proposed 74-storey 1 Undershaft, has high hopes to steal it.
Dig a little deeper and it’s not all about big, shiny and new offices…
The Plan summarises objectives in three categories: Economic, Social and Environmental. I’ve picked out some from each which grabbed my attention, paraphrasing and merging a couple together.
Delivering sustainable economic growth, including a minimum of 1.2 million sqm net additional office floorspace by 2040
Ensuring new and refurbished office space meets the priorities of occupiers and their workforces
Creating a more vibrant and diverse retail economy, and enhancing the City’s evening and weekend economies
Delivering new, inclusive open spaces and enhancing the City’s public realm
Engaging with the City’s communities including workers and residents and other stakeholders. Creating a more inclusive, healthier, and safer City
Delivering additional homes within the Square Mile and on City Corporation estates and other appropriate sites outside the City. Enhancing the City’s social infrastructure and creating new sports and recreation opportunities
Ensuring that the City is environmentally sustainable and transitions to a net zero carbon City by 2040
Celebrating, protecting and enhancing the City’s unique heritage assets
The phasing of office delivery suggests 900,000m2 completed by 2031! It seeks a proportion of flexible and affordable workspace suitable for micro, SMEs, where possible.
In terms of design, careful wording has been used to focus on retrofit (“retrofit first”) and retention whilst stating that designs should be informed by appraisals of development options. On existing buildings it encourages refurbishment and improving environmental performance.
Generally design should minimise whole life-cycle carbon and contribute towards a net zero carbon City. I was pleased to see that this plan should deliver world class sustainable buildings that are adaptable and informed by circular economy principles and that treat materials as a resource. Hopefully this is the beginning of a push for design to better consider design for deconstruction at the end of life.
In terms of tall buildings (>75,m) , there is a new contour map defining limits and zones - this is primarily in the City Cluster but also applies to Fleet Valley. 1 Undershaft is definitely pushing the limits of that 300m contour!
What is the process?
January to March 2024: taken through committee approval
Spring/Summer 2024: Consultation
Autumn 2024: Submission to Secretary of State (for examination by independent Planning Inspector)
Winter 2024: Anticipated examination hearing sessions
Summer 2025: Anticipated adoption