Project | City of London SPD

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We were delighted to see important urban lighting issues that we are involved with appearing as stories in the mainstream media over the weekend, in regard to the draft City of London Lighting Supplementary Planning Document (SPD).

The SPD is something we have been working with the City on in an advisory capacity for some time. It falls out of a recommendation made in the City of London Lighting Strategy we published with them in 2018 and will provide a statutory set of guidance in respect of best practice lighting design for the illumination of building exteriors and the public realm. It also addresses a number of important environmental issues.

Having identified a series of desired outcomes, including reducing energy waste and light pollution in support of their climate action plan, and improving the quality of the public realm, the City’s strategy is aimed at ensuring an intelligent, sensitive approach to public and private lighting, which ensures safety and accessibility, while protecting the historic character of the City and the amenity of its residents.

Crucially, the SPD describes the process by which lighting is integrated into the planning application process at a very early stage. Planning applicants for major developments will be required to submit a lighting strategy as part of any pre-application, and a fully developed lighting concept at the application stage. Technical details of lighting schemes will then be delivered post-planning as part of the conditions. This differs from the current process which often sees lighting only being properly considered post-permission. Details on how the lighting will be operated and maintained will also be a mandatory part of the planning process.

Technical guidance is also included in the SPD, by means of a simple methodology to limit light spill and brightness based on a series of identified ‘District Brightness Zones’. The proposal identifies residential and heritage areas, cultural and tourist areas, and commercial, retail and transport hubs, each having varying ‘curfews’ in respect to the control of external illumination and the impact of interior lighting.

While the guidance is mandatory for all new developments, under current planning law it could not be applied retroactively to existing buildings. The SPD therefore also includes an innovative “Considerate Lighting Charter” (CLS). This is an agreement that building owners can sign up to on a voluntary basis that requires them to adopt best practice, particularly with respect to the environmental impact they create through building illumination. Given the sustainability policies of many commercial building owners and their tenants, there is cause for optimism that the take up of the CLS will be widespread.

Finally, the SPD also includes a Code of Practice for temporary lighting, primarily used for construction lighting, which also has the potential to cause nuisance on a long-term basis. Many construction sites are brightly lit even when they are shut, particularly during the winter months. This can often be all through the night, and for many years.

Following a recent series of consultations involving the general public and lighting professionals, the draft proposal will shortly enter a period of review before being formally adopted. It can be viewed here: