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Policy SI6 Digital connectivity infrastructure

SI6

  1. To ensure London’s global competitiveness now and in the future, development proposals should:
    1. achieve greater digital connectivity than set out in part R1of the Building Regulations
    2. ensure that sufficient ducting space for future digital connectivity infrastructure is provided
    3. meet requirements for mobile connectivity within the development and take appropriate mitigation measures to avoid reducing mobile connectivity in surrounding areas
    4. support the effective use of the public realm (such as street furniture and bins) to accommodate well-designed and located mobile digital infrastructure.

The provision of digital infrastructure is as important for the proper functioning of development as energy, water and waste management services and should be treated with the same importance. London should be a world-leading tech hub with world-class digital connectivity that can anticipate growing capacity needs and serve hard to reach areas. Fast, reliable digital connectivity is essential in today’s economy and especially for digital technology and creative companies. It supports every aspect of how people work and take part in modern society, helps smart innovation and facilitates regeneration.

London’s capability in this area is currently limited by a range of issues, including the availability of fibre and the speeds delivered. The industry regulator Ofcom publishes the data on digital connectivity coverage on which Figure 9.5 is based, but there are some limitations to the practicality of the data that is collected. Further work will be done to accurately identify locations in the capital where current connectivity provisions are not suitable for the needs of the area.

Better digital connectivity with a focus on affordability, security, resilience and the provision of appropriate electrical power supply should be promoted across the capital. The specific requirements of business clusters, such as a symmetrical service with the same upload and download speeds, should also be met.

Given the fast pace at which digital technology is changing, a flexible approach to development is needed that supports innovation and choice. Part R1 of the Building Regulations 2010 requires buildings to be equipped with high-speed (at least 30 Mbps) ready in-building physical infrastructure, however new developments using higher-grade infrastructure could achieve connectivity speeds closer to 1 Gbps. Innovation is driving reductions in the size of infrastructure, with marginal additional unit costs, but greater digital connectivity is needed in more locations.

For some types of development (such as commercial) specific requirements regarding communications access and security may apply. Data centres, in particular, depend on reliable connectivity and electricity infrastructure. Warehouse-based data centres have emerged as a driver of industrial demand in London over recent years and this will need to be taken into account when assessing demand for industrial land (see Policy E4 Land for industry, logistics and services to support London’s economic function, Policy E5 Strategic Industrial Locations (SIL), Policy E6 Locally Significant Industrial Sites and Policy E7 Intensification, co-location and substitution of land for industry, logistics and services to support London’s economic function).

The Mayor will work with providers, developers, councils and Government to develop guidance and share good practice to increase awareness and capability amongst boroughs and developers of the effective provision of digital connectivity and to support the delivery of policy requirements. The Mayor will also help to identify spatial gaps in connectivity and overcome barriers to delivery to address this form of digital exclusion, in particular through his ‘not-spot’ work. Boroughs should encourage the delivery of high-quality / world-class digital infrastructure as part of their digital strategies or corporate plans.

Digital connectivity supports smart technologies in terms of the collection, analysis and sharing of data on the performance of the built and natural environment, including for example, water and energy consumption, air quality, noise and congestion. Development should be fitted with smart infrastructure, such as sensors, to enable better collection and monitoring of such data. As digital connectivity and the capability of these sensors improves, and their cost falls, more and better data will become available to improve monitoring of planning agreements and impact assessments, for example related to urban design. Further guidance will be developed to make London a smarter city.