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The City of London will ask its cluster of skyscrapers to dim their lights at night as part of a new strategy to reduce visual pollution and save energy.

Property owners across the Square Mile will be asked to switch off unnecessary building lights as part of a proposal by the City of London Corporation to create “brightness zones” governed by curfews.

City officials are concerned about energy wastage and light pollution caused by the unnecessary use of lights in office buildings that have few or no workers after a certain time of night.

“Over time, as new developments come forward that follow this guidance, we will transform the approach to lighting in the City,” the corporation said in a planning document that sets out the proposal.

During the curfew, the City will ask buildings to turn off or dim all external illumination other than that required for safety or crime prevention. Internal lights should also be dimmed significantly, although buildings in business areas will be allowed to have brighter lights if they are needed by workers.

Residential areas and those with special heritage status will have earlier curfews than those in central business districts.

City officials said that efforts to tackle light pollution needed to be balanced with the fact that some people work through the night, especially when keeping international hours, while the area’s many bars and restaurants are open until late.

“The City is a unique place in which 24/7 business districts and busy transport hubs rub up against historic buildings and residential neighbourhoods,” said Shravan Joshi, City of London Corporation planning and transportation committee chair.

The corporation’s strategy “is aimed at ensuring an intelligent, sensitive approach to lighting, which ensures the City is safe and accessible, while protecting its historic character and the amenity of our residents”, he added.

The corporation’s planning document, which was prepared with input from lighting architects Speirs Major, says that developments should “ensure all external and internal lighting is automatically turned off when not needed using [motion sensors] and/or time clocks or other automated control devices”. 

Developers in the City of London would be required to agree to these plans as part of the planning process for new buildings.

Owners of existing buildings will be asked to follow the rules too, although the local authority will have no legal power to enforce them. Instead, they will be asked to sign up to a voluntary charter to improve lighting in the City.

The corporation, one of the largest owners of property in the Square Mile, will adopt the strategy for its estate.

The local authority will hold consultations on the planning document. The City proposes the creation of three types of “brightness zone” with curfews set at 10pm for residential and heritage areas, 11pm for cultural and tourist areas, and midnight for commercial, retail and transport hubs.

The corporation said the proposals would help it reach its target of achieving carbon net zero for the Square Mile by 2040.

Melanie Leech, chief executive of the British Property Federation, said: “We should all do everything we can to reduce unnecessary light pollution and reduce energy use. The City of London’s consultation . . . should be helpful in providing leadership and clarity to developers, property owners and their customers.”

The corporation is also taking steps to tackle air pollution in the Square Mile, including closing certain roads and developing a one-way system near Bank station, a busy junction.

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