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Policy SD4 The Central Activities Zone (CAZ)


  1. The unique international, national and London-wide roles of the CAZ, based on an agglomeration and rich mix of strategic functions as well as local uses, should be promoted and enhanced.
  2. The nationally and internationally significant office functions of the CAZ should be supported and enhanced by all stakeholders, including the intensification and provision of sufficient space to meet demand for a range of types and sizes of occupier and rental values.
  3. Rhe distinct environment and heritage of the CAZ should be sustained and enhanced.
  4. Taking account of the dense nature of the CAZ, practical measures should be taken to improve air quality, using an air quality positive approach where possible (Policy SI1 Improving air quality) and to address issues related to climate change and the urban heat island effect.
  5. The unique concentration and diversity of cultural, arts, entertainment, night-time economy and tourism functions should be promoted and enhanced.
  6. The vitality and viability of the international shopping and leisure destinations of the West End and Knightsbridge together with other CAZ retail clusters should be supported.
  7. The CAZ as a centre of excellence and specialist clusters including functions of state, health, law, education, creative and cultural activities, and other more local Special Policy Areas should be supported and promoted.
  8. The attractiveness of the CAZ to residents, visitors and businesses should be enhanced through public realm improvements and the reduction of traffic dominance, as part of the Healthy Streets Approach (see Policy T2 Healthy Streets).
  9. Infrastructure to sustain and enhance the CAZ and its agglomeration of strategic functions including its public transport and digital connectivity and its potential to accommodate new development should be secured.
  10. The safety, security and resilience of the CAZ should be promoted working with businesses and communities.
  11. The attractions of predominantly residential neighbourhoods, where more local uses predominate, should be conserved.
  12. Development of social infrastructure that meets the distinct needs of the CAZ should be supported.
  13. Sufficient capacity for industry and logistics should be identified and protected, including last mile distribution, freight consolidation and other related service functions within or close to the CAZ and Northern Isle of Dogs to support the needs of businesses and activities within these areas.
  14. In Development Plans, boroughs should:
    1. define the detailed boundary of the CAZ and specialist clusters of strategic functions having regard to the CAZ Diagram shown in Figure 2.16
    2. develop locally sensitive policies to meet this Plan’s objectives for the CAZ
    3. define the detailed boundaries of the CAZ satellite and reserve locations

The CAZ is the vibrant heart and globally-iconic core of London. It is one of the world’s most attractive and competitive business locations. It accommodates one third of London’s jobs and generates almost 10 per cent of the UK’s output. It contains the seat of national Government and is internationally renowned for its culture, night-time economy, tourism, shopping and heritage. It is also home to more than 230,000 residents.

The density, scale and mix of business functions and activities in the CAZ are unique and are underpinned by the connectivity provided by public transport, walking and cycling networks. This agglomeration results in exceptional levels of productivity, which is not replicated elsewhere in the UK, and provides national benefits. It requires different or tailored approaches to the application of national policy to address its distinct circumstances.

For the purposes of CAZ policies, the Northern Isle of Dogs (NIOD) is recognised as a CAZ ‘satellite’[10] location for world city office functions. Future potential reserve[11] locations for CAZ office functions are Stratford and Old Oak Common.

[10] The term ‘satellite’ is used to indicate that the NIOD is geographically separate from the CAZ but it is treated as part of the CAZ in London Plan policy.

[11] These locations are identified as future strategic reserves for nationally significant office functions in the event that future demand for office space exceeds development capacity in the CAZ.

The strategic functions of the CAZ include, but are not necessarily limited to:

  1. functions associated with the State, Government and Monarchy
  2. diplomatic organisations (such as embassies and high commissions)
  3. agglomerations of nationally and internationally significant offices and company headquarters connected with finance, business, professional bodies, associations and institutions
  4. uses connected with science, technology, media, communications and cultural sectors of regional, national and international importance
  5. centres of excellence for higher and further education and research
  6. centres of medical excellence and associated specialist facilities
  7. legal establishments of regional, national and international importance
  8. arts, culture, leisure, entertainment and activities and areas of regional, national and international importance
  9. retailing, including specialist outlets, of regional, national and international importance
  10. tourism facilities including hotels and conference centres
  11. specialist creative clusters including for example clothing, fashion, jewellery, printing, antiques, musical instruments, art and culture
  12. transport facilities, especially for public transport of regional, national and international importance
  13. places of worship and places of assembly of regional, national and international importance
  14. use and enjoyment of the River Thames
  15. heritage, built environment, the Royal Parks and other green and open spaces (public and private).

Alongside the range of strategic functions, the CAZ also contains housing, social infrastructure and community uses to address the needs of residents, visitors and workers. Whilst they are not strategic functions of the CAZ, these locally orientated uses also play an important role in the character and function of the Zone as a vibrant mixed-use area, ensuring activity and vitality at different times of the day and week. New residential development should be complementary and not compromise the strategic functions of the CAZ.

As a whole, the CAZ supports a nationally and internationally significant scale and agglomeration of offices, enabled by the hyper-connectivity of its public transport infrastructure. The CAZ has important clusters in areas such as tech, the creative industries and life sciences[12], adding to its strengths in the business, professional and financial services sector, arts and culture, health, education and law. A supportive policy approach to the wide variety of business space requirements, quality and range of rental values is essential to enable these sectors to flourish and for small and medium-sized enterprises to fulfil their economic potential alongside larger businesses[13].

[12] Ramidus Consulting. 2017 London Office Policy Review. GLA, 2017

[13] Ramidus Consulting, Small Offices and Mixed Use Development in CAZ, GLA 2015

The distinct environment and heritage of the CAZ should be sustained and enhanced through development decisions, Local Plans and other initiatives[14] such as the transformation of Oxford Street. This should recognise both its strategic elements, including the River Thames, the Royal Parks, World Heritage Sites, Designated Views and unique concentration of heritage assets, as well as more local features including the public realm, smaller waterways and green and open spaces

[14] Mayor’s Environment Strategy 2017

Air quality in the CAZ is particularly poor due to the intensity of the road network and land uses. The CAZ also experiences high levels of construction which results in dust and emissions from construction activities and equipment that adversely affect air quality. The Mayor is taking practical steps to improve air quality in the CAZ including the T-charge and stricter Ultra-Low Emission Zone which will impose charges on the most polluting vehicles[15].

[15] Details on the TfL website:,; See also the Mayor’s Environment Strategy 2017.

Arts, culture, tourism and entertainment activities are a defining feature of the vibrant and distinctive character of the CAZ with its varied mix of daytime, evening and night-time uses. Together they make a vital contribution to London’s culture and heritage, ensuring the capital is an attractive place in which to live, work, visit and invest. The CAZ includes several areas that are rich in cultural activity including the West End, South Bank/Bankside/London Bridge, the Barbican, King’s Cross and the South Kensington museums complex, along with more local clusters and cultural venues. It also contains the country’s largest concentrations of night-time activity in Soho, Covent Garden and Shoreditch. These areas and functions should be recognised, nurtured and supported in line with CAZ Policy and other policies related to culture and supporting the evening and night-time economy. Policies on hotels and other serviced accommodation in the CAZ (and elsewhere) are set out in the Economy chapter of this Plan.

The CAZ contains a vibrant, successful and diverse retail offer at a scale and quality that makes it a shopping destination of global significance. It contains a range of unique centres and mixed-use clusters with a predominant retail function which perform different roles in the wider London Plan town centre network (see Town Centre policies) including:

  1. International centres - The West End (including the primary retail functions of Oxford Street, Regent Street, Bond Street and the wider West End Retail and Leisure Special Policy Area) and Knightsbridge
  2. The West End Retail and Leisure Special Policy Area (WERLSPA) including Covent Garden and Soho, where retail should complement the strategic cultural, leisure, evening and night-time economy roles of these areas
  3. CAZ retail clusters - significant mixed-use clusters with a predominant retail function and in terms of scale broadly comparable to Major or District centres in the London Plan town centre network (see Annex 1)
  4. Locally identified CAZ retail centres – smaller clusters or parades of retail and related uses broadly comparable to local / neighbourhood centres in the London Plan town centre network and generally serving very localised areas
  5. Specialist retail destinations / clusters – including for example Covent Garden, arcades, street markets, covered and specialist markets and niche retailing
  6. Other retail clusters including areas within the CAZ defined in Local Plans as being appropriate for retail development and ancillary clusters of retail associated with public transport termini and stations.

Wider trends in consumer expenditure and the emergence of multi-channel retailing present both challenges and opportunities for retailing within the CAZ. Overall, the CAZ is projected to have demand for approximately 375,000 sq m of additional comparison goods retail floorspace over the period 2016-2041[16] (after the committed pipeline of retail development is taken into account). Within this context the vitality and viability of the international shopping centres and other CAZ retail clusters above should be enhanced along with improvements to the quality of the environment and public realm.

[16] Experian. Consumer Expenditure and Comparison Goods Retail Floorspace Need in London, GLA, 2017

The CAZ contains several other important specialist clusters of activity which contribute towards the capital’s international and national roles. These clusters include functions of state, health, law and education and are represented spatially in the CAZ Diagram (Figure 2.16). Many of these clusters have developed organically over time and the dynamic nature of the CAZ means that this process is continually evolving. It will be important to promote and sustain certain clusters such as Tech City; the arts, cultural and creative clusters in Soho/West End, Barbican/Smithfield/Farringdon, Shoreditch, South Kensington museums complex, King’s Cross, Angel and London Bridge/Southbank; and the centres of medical excellence and life sciences research clusters around the Euston Road including the University College Hospital, the Wellcome Trust and the Francis Crick Institute (and on the CAZ fringe at Whitechapel and White City).

Special Policy Areas may be defined locally in specific and exceptional circumstances where development pressures and market conditions could lead to the loss of valued specialist clusters of uses or functions identified as having particular significance to London’s unique identity, economic function or cultural heritage. Examples include St James’s (art and antiques), Savile Row (bespoke tailoring), Denmark Street (musical instrument retail) and Hatton Garden (jewellery). Given the operation of the Use Classes Order and permitted development rights, Special Policy Areas often require the collaboration of landowners to achieve their objectives. They should only be defined in the above exceptional circumstances to avoid stifling innovation and change that is one of the defining features of the CAZ.

The CAZ is one of the most connected places in the world. Crossrail and the Thameslink programme will significantly increase the number of people within 45 minutes’ travel time of central London, improving access to the labour market and the competitiveness of businesses. Further investment in strategic transport infrastructure and capacity improvements are necessary to support the growth and success of the CAZ, in particular Crossrail 2.

Digital connectivity and associated infrastructure is a key consideration in the CAZ where densities of commercial development in particular are high. Where necessary, applicants should seek to aggregate demand in areas not currently served by high-speed connectivity and liaise jointly with providers to ensure that infrastructure requirements can be planned and delivered appropriately (see Policy SI6 Digital connectivity infrastructure).

Local Plans and development proposals should respond to issues related to climate change taking into account the distinct circumstances of the CAZ including the urban heat island effect (whereby the CAZ suffers from higher local temperatures than surrounding parts of London) and its vulnerability to surface water flooding due to low-lying land and the high proportion of impermeable surfaces.

The quality and character of the CAZ’s predominantly residential neighbourhoods should be conserved and enhanced. This should ensure a variety of housing suitable to the needs of diverse communities, including affordable housing, whilst ensuring that development does not compromise strategic CAZ functions. Boroughs should also consider social infrastructure demands generated by residents, workers and visitors in the CAZ when undertaking social infrastructure need assessments.

In the high-value land market within the CAZ there is very limited industrial and logistics capacity. Differentials between industrial and non-industrial land values in the CAZ boroughs puts immense pressure on sites in industrial use for conversion to non-industrial uses[17]. In Development Plans and development decisions, boroughs (particularly but not exclusively those in CAZ and inner London) should take into account the supply and demand for industrial and related uses providing essential functions and services to the CAZ. These functions include: sustainable distribution and logistics; ‘just-in-time’ servicing such as food service activities, printing, administrative and support services, office supplies, repair and maintenance; construction; waste management and recycling; and land to support transport functions (see also Policies Policy E4 Land for industry, logistics and services to support London’s economic function, Policy E5 Strategic Industrial Locations (SIL) and Policy E6 Locally Significant Industrial Sites).

[17] AECOM et al. London Industrial Land Supply and Economy Study. GLA, 2016. CAG Consulting. London Industrial Land Demand Study, GLA, 2017