City of London SPD,

In July 2023, the City of London Corporation Planning and Transportation Committee voted unanimously to adopt a ground-breaking Lighting Supplementary Planning Document (SPD) - a statutory set of guidance for the design, delivery, maintenance and operation for lighting for building exteriors and the public realm. It also includes best practice guidelines to help reduce the impact of internal lighting on external areas.
City of London
2022 - 2023
James Newton
Project Team
Mark Major, Benz Roos

Following the recommendations made as part of the City of London Lighting Strategy (2018) which we helped author, the City 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. These objectives formed the basis for the SPD, which aims to ensure that all new developments include proper consideration for how lighting will complement the architectural and heritage context, as well as addressing important issues of sustainability, safety, accessibility, inclusion and amenity for residents, workers, visitors and tourists. We worked closely with the City in an advisory capacity as they developed their Lighting SPD, which is focused on shaping a positive experience of the City after dark for all users while supporting their sustainability goals.

Under the newly adopted guidance, lighting is integrated into the planning application process at a very early stage for the first time in the City’s history. All requirements at each stage have been formalised, with planning applicants for major developments required to submit a lighting strategy as part of any pre-application and then a fully developed lighting concept at the application stage. Technical details of lighting schemes are then delivered post-planning as part of the conditions, including mandatory information on how the lighting will be operated and maintained.

Supporting this, a series of guidance topics are in place to help applicants to achieve the desired outcomes. A simple methodology limits light spill and brightness based on a series of identified ‘District Brightness Zones’ including residential and heritage areas, cultural and tourist areas, and commercial, retail and transport hubs. Each of these has varying ‘curfews’ to help control external illumination and the impact of interior lighting, particularly for highly glazed buildings.

While the guidance is mandatory for all new developments, the SPD also includes an innovative “Considerate Lighting Charter” (CLS). This is for existing building owners, operators, and occupiers to encourage them to manage their lighting systems in ways that positively contribute to the City, its character, culture, and night-time economy.

The SPD also includes a Code of Practice for temporary lighting, primarily for construction lighting, which can cause nuisance on a long-term basis.

Our Climate Action Strategy makes us the first UK governing body to have a fully funded net zero commitment that covers all emissions. The Lighting SPD will make the City more characterful and a more attractive place to visit at night, celebrating its heritage but also delivering a sustainable response to urban lighting that takes into account energy efficiency, carbon reduction and making the City safer for all communities.”

Chairman of the City of London Corporation Planning and Transport Committee, Shravan Joshi

Two images taken of the 'Eastern Cluster' of towers in the City of London. The left hand image was taken the year before the COVID-19 pandemic. The right hand image shows the same view during the first lockdown when many office workers were working from home. Whilst an extreme situation it provides a unique glimpse of the City when less lighting is spilling from the interiors of buildings.

One of the many objectives of the SPD is to reduce the environmental impact of highly glazed buildings after dark but without compromising the enjoyment of their internal space by users