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London publishes wind guidelines for pedestrian safety

Words: Laura Edgar
London / James Burns

The City of London Corporation has published wind microclimate guidelines for new development in the Square Mile.

The guidelines, the “UK’s first”, aim to raise the benchmark for acceptable wind conditions in the city to make sure pedestrians and cyclists are comfortable and safe.

Alastair Moss, chair of the planning and transportation committee, said: “With the number of tall buildings in the Square Mile growing, it is important that the knock-on effects of new developments on wind at street level are properly considered. These guidelines mark another significant step that the city corporation is taking to put cyclists and pedestrians at the heart of planning in the Square Mile, prioritising their safety and experience.

“We hope these groundbreaking guidelines can create a blueprint for others by delivering safer, more enjoyable streets that meet the evolving needs of this great city.”

The guidelines intend to provide a "robust framework" for assessing the impact of planning applications on wind conditions, as well as make sure what were previously acceptable "business walking conditions" are now reclassified as "uncomfortable", and to be avoided other than in exceptional circumstances of limited public access.

The City of London Corporation acknowledged that wind can destabilise or push cyclists into the path of vehicles. Roadways and pavements will be tested in wind tunnel studies or through computer simulations so the urban environment is safer and more comfortable for everyone. This is in line with the city corporations plans to encourage greater use of the city's streets for cycling, walking and other outdoor activities. The guidance also prioritises vulnerable groups in society, aside from school's and elderly people's homes.

The city corporation worked with Ender Ozkan of RWDI Consulting Engineers and Scientists, which built on research previously undertaken by RWDI for the city corporation. It also sought input from members of the wind engineering community in preparing the guidelines.

The guidelines will also:

  • Require that wind impacts are tested at the earliest point of a scheme’s design development, for example height and massing, to avoid the need to retrofit wind mitigation measures.
  • Ensure more micro-level assessments of wind directions are carried out in wind-tunnel testing.
  • Require the commissioning of two separate consultants, one to carry out wind-tunnel testing and the other Computational Fluid Dynamics (CFD), and interrogate any discrepancies between both sets of results.

The city corporation added that the wind guidelines are in line with its Transport Strategy and draft City Plan, which will be finalised in the coming months. They both aim to prioritise pedestrians, promote cleaner and healthier ways to travel, and increase the amount of high-quality public space in the city.

Image credit | James Burns