Agenda item

Tall Buildings Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) - Scoping and Draft Principles and Objectives


Members received a report and presentation on the tall buildings planning supplementary document (SPD) which set out the background, objectives, principles and proposed approach to be taken to prepare specific tall building guidance by way of a Tall Building Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).


In making the presentation, officers reported that:


1)              An SPD was a context-based document, which did not introduce a new policy but formed part of a wider planning framework, providing further guidance to existing Local Plan policies;


2)              At the heart of Harrow’s proposed Tall Buildings SPD laid three key themes – Addressing Place (provides contextual analysis); Adding Quality (ensures all aspects of good quality design are considered); Delivering Good Growth (development would contribute to places).  On that basis, the purpose of the proposed Tall Buildings SPD was to:


·       provide an understanding of the characteristics of Harrow to enable analysis of all areas to be undertaken

·       guidance to assist in determining a definition of a tall building relative to its context

·       ensuring high quality design achieved in tall building development either as per the London Plan definition or what is considered to contextually be a tall building (below the London Plan definition).

·       ensure that the council had basis for a material consideration when refusing schemes which were not appropriate in the local context;

·       provide clarity for developers/officers/public on the expectations of the LPA when considering a develop that seeks to increase height above the surrounding context


3)              Harrow does not currently have a tall building policy at a borough wide level.  The Local Plan, which was published in 2013, is currently undergoing review, but could take up to 3 years to adopt.  An SPD would act as an interim measure and would supplement existing policies (Harrow’s Local Policy DM1 Achieving a High Standard of Development which relates, among other matters, to height).


4)              Progress on the Tall Building SPD would be based on the relevant policy framework and contemporary evidence.  This included the Harrow Characterisation and Tall Building Study, completed in 2021, which showed that the prevailing heights in Harrow ranged between 2-3 storeys, but these increased in town centres.  The study also elucidated how tall buildings should be defined and set out design guidance to help new developments of height to achieve high qual design.


5)              The tall buildings SPD was expected to be in place from May/June 2023, subject to relevant consultations and approval from Harrow’s Cabinet.


Prior to opening the discussion, the Chair stressed the importance of progressing with the Tall Buildings SPD as it provided the Council with the necessary resilience against inappropriate developments and detail on specific planning issues.


In the discussion which ensued, the Panel raised a number of comments and questions which were responded to as follows: 


6)              In response to an enquiry about how successful tall building SPD’s were in other boroughs and the impact on housing targets and future planning applications, officers explained that they held no specific information on the success of SPDs in other boroughs.  Most tall building SPDs from other boroughs were relatively few and recently progressed, by reason of the new Tall building policy in the London Plan published in 2021.  Although noted some did pre-date this.  A Tall Building SPD was not expected to interfere with housing targets but would focus more on securing good quality accommodation and a high quality of design for residents.  The Panel was also reminded that whilst the Mayor of London could still call applications which exceeded the threshold of 150 units, there were no specific measurements in place for developments below that threshold and therefore a SPD acted as material consideration when deciding planning applications giving both extra protection to the Council but also a clear steer to applicants on what would likely to be acceptable.


7)              Current consultation with the Greater London Authority (GLA) was still at an informal level but would move to statutory once the draft SPD has been finalised. Public consultation would also be undertaken and ward members would be invited to have their say.


8)              The Tall Building SPD was a context-based document, which provided guidance on what was likely to be considered a tall building within Harrow.  It provided an extra layer of protection and assertion to the Council against inappropriate developments.


9)              Defining context can be challenging because of competing / mixed characteristic in some parts of the borough. Guidance and examples would be provided to applicants on how to carry out context analysis.


10)          In response to a question on whether the formula referred to in Section 6 of the report on what constitutes a tall building would actually result in a definition officers explained that the aim of the Tall Building SPD was to outline what would be considered tall within the context in which it would be located but without being too prescriptive in order to avoid any misinterpretation.


11)          The SPD would not conflict with the Local Plan, as it would provide guidance to policies within it.  It would not conflict with the 30m definition for tall buildings as set out in the Core Strategy (2012), as this only relates to the Harrow & Wealdstone Opportunity Area.  There is no Tall Building definition for the suburbs outside of the Opportunity Area. 


12)          12). The Local Plan, which would eventually be replaced with a new Local Plan and was expected to be completed within the next 3 years – a lengthy timeframe due mainly to previous delays and the rigorous process required it needed to go through before it could be adopted. The SPD would still be relevant to the new Local Plan which would likely have a specific tall building policy.


The Chair thanked the officers for the presentation and responses.


RESOLVED:  That the report and presentation be noted.

Supporting documents: