City intervenes over 22 Bishopsgate rights to light case

The City of London has intervened to block a right to light claim which could have stalled plans for what would be the City's tallest tower, 22 Bishopsgate.

22 Bishopsgate (centre) (pic AXA IM - Real Assets)
22 Bishopsgate (centre) (pic AXA IM - Real Assets)

The City of London resolved to approve the 295-metre tall building in November 2015, subject to a final decision by the mayor of London.

The structure is earmarked for the site of the part-built "Pinnacle" skyscraper. This secured planning permission in 2007 and work subsequently started on-site, only for construction to be halted in 2012.

Following a request from the scheme’s developer, AXA Investment Managers Real Assets and Lipton Roger, a report considered by the City of London’s planning committee earlier this week recommended that the authority use Section 237 of the Town and Country Planning Act 1990 to override rights to light claims which threatened to further stall the development.

Under Section 237, where a local authority has "acquired or appropriated" land "for planning purposes" then the construction of a building on that land by the council may override a right to light, provided that compensation is paid to affected parties.

The report said there was a strong case to use the powers, including that the scheme would provide "a significant increase in flexible office accommodation and supporting the strategic objective of the Corporation to promote the City as the leading international financial and business centre".

It also said that, "given that negotiations which have been undertaken with affected owners, and given that there are a large number of interests where agreement has not be reached, the conclusion to be reached is that absent engagement of section 237, the development is unlikely to proceed, and certainly will not proceed within the timescale contemplated".

But a letter sent to the City of London in March by law firm Eversheds on behalf of affected land owners, said there was "no public justification for the Corporation to engage its powers under sections 227 and 237 and, in any event, it would be unlawful to do so".

"In the case of rights of light, before considering appropriation a local authority should identify all those with rights which would be infringed if the development contemplated was carried out, and seek to secure releases of those rights by negotiation. That has simply not happened, or come anywhere near to happening", the latter added.

Eversheds was contacted by Planning to see what its clients’ reaction was to the approval of Section 237 powers but it declined to comment. 

The City of London used Section 237 powers to progress work on the ‘Walkie Talkie’ tower, formally known as 20 Fenchurch Street, in 2011. It also recently approved the use of Section 237 over the 21 Moorfields development.

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