Westminster Council is asking for comments on modifications proposed by inspectors to its City Plan 2019-2040, a policy document that will control land development in the city by setting out targets for housing, economic growth, and public open space and greenery.

The planning document has gone through a number of stages of consultation and was subject to a public examination this autumn. It is now nearing the final stage before it is adopted by the council.

“We feel that the plan sets out a sound strategic direction for growth in the city over the next 20 years,” says Councillor Matthew Green, cabinet member for business and planning

“From transforming our high streets to creating more affordable housing, it addresses every aspect of the built environment, while preparing our city for the future.

“The independent Inspectors examining the Plan concluded at the public hearings that it can be found sound with modifications and as such the formal consultation on the Schedule of Main Modifications is now open for comment,” he says.

The inspectors have drawn attention to the importance residential neighbourhoods in the Central Area Zone (CAZ) and have modified the City Plan to state:

“While commercial uses including offices are a strategic function of the CAZ as set out in the London Plan, it is important to recognise that some parts of the CAZ, such as much of Pimlico, parts of Knightsbridge, Mayfair, Belgravia, Marylebone and Fitzrovia all include streets that are wholly or predominantly residential in character.

“Policy therefore seeks to direct offices to those parts of the CAZ that are of a commercial or mixed-use nature, in order to protect local character and residential amenity. The dense nature of Westminster makes it difficult to accurately and definitively map clear boundaries of different character areas on a city-wide level. As such, judgements will be based on an assessment of the mix of land uses within the vicinity of a development site, and any assessments of local character within made neighbourhood plans,” state inspectors .

The inspectors have modified the document to stress that new housing development should be at least 35 percent affordable.

A number of references have been made to the new planning use class E which came into operation this September.

“Given the recent changes in the Use Classes Order the council cannot control growth of cafes and restaurants that are now in a new Class E. The focus of this policy will therefore be on other uses such as takeaways, shisha smoking bars and other drinking establishments that are sui generis uses,” states a new wording proposed by inspectors.

The inspectors also re-write a policy to control proposals that involve a net loss of office space in the Central Activities Zone (CAZ).

The net loss of office floorspace to residential from the CAZ “will only be permitted in those parts of the CAZ that are predominantly residential in character and where the proposal would reinstate an original residential use”.

And a change to hotel use “will only be permitted where there is no interest in its continued use for office or any other Class E (commercial, business and services), education or community use, as demonstrated by vacancy and appropriate marketing for a period of at least 12 months”.

Changes to wording is also made with regard to the importance of amenity space for residents, communal space, and public open space in new housing developments.

The Schedule of Main Modifications runs to 68 pages. A public consultation is now open until 18 January 2021 on the proposed Main Modifications only.

Examination of City Plan 2019-2040, Main Modifications Consultation.

Editorial note: this report was updated at 12.30pm on Wednesday 2 December to add reference to the policy regarding “net loss of office floorspace”.