It’s another roll of the dice for CapCo in Earls Court, but the end of the line for Jubilee and Northern line upgrades.
Meanwhile, the housing crisis, and what to do about it, is on everyone’s minds – politicians, civil servants, developers, housing associations are all on the war path – and two by-election results may be concerning the Tories and buoying the Lib Dems in equal measure.
This time next week it’s Budget Day, so watch this space for LCA’s take on the Chancellor’s big moment!
EARLS COURT MASTERPLAN
CapCo has confirmed that it is reworking its Earls Court masterplan with a view to increasing housing provision from 7,500 to 10,000 new homes. The scheme was green-lit in 2012 by the then Conservative-led Hammersmith & Fulham Council but has faced opposition by residents (as well as from the council itself after 2014, when it passed into Labour control) concerned about the amount of affordable housing and the demolition of two housing estates. Crucially, the announcement by the developer notes that the new plans ‘could involve LBHF taking the lead on future plans for the West Kensington and Gibbs Green Estates’. This re-affirmed a statement by Council Leader Stephen Cowan a few days earlier, in which he reportedly suggested that if a new plan submitted by CapCo gets planning permission, it ‘would see the two estates return to council control’. The proposed demolition and re-provision of the homes on these estates has been the most controversial aspect of the £1.1bn masterplan (revised down from £1.4bn over the last few years) conceived by Sir Terry Farrell; however, they are actually now owned by the developer rather than the council so would have be transferred back.. As in 2014, we would expect Earls Court to be a key electoral issue in the run up to the local elections next May.
MAJOR CHANGE AT LONDON HOSPITALS
Whipps Cross Hospital in Leytonstone, part of Barts Health NHS Trust, is to rebuild its maternity department to make it the largest in Europe and prepare for an expected baby boom. The £6.8m project, funded by the Barts Charity, will include a research hub and mini-laboratory to enable pioneering clinical trials. The department already handles 5,000 births a year, one of the biggest caseloads in London. In 2016, the Care Quality Commission gave the service a ‘good’ rating, but indicated that it suffers from an inadequate estate; the Trust feels this results in one in five women choosing to give birth elsewhere despite starting their care at the hospital. Work is due to begin in April 2018 and will take two years to complete. Meanwhile, in South London, Epsom and St Helier Hospital Trust has received a positive response to its proposals to move services onto a single site (acute services are currently provided at both Epsom and St Helier hospitals). 80% of those consulted favoured a single site option. If it goes ahead, the new facility would be the first district general hospital to open in London since the Princess Royal opened in Bromley, in 2003.
SPOTLIGHT ON RBKC
New Labour MP for Kensington, Emma Dent Coad, has published a report on housing and inequality in the Royal Borough. While the report is certainly a party political piece, it also brings together valuable evidence on the pervasive socioeconomic inequality seen in even the wealthiest areas of the city. Meanwhile, three new assessors – Joe Montgomery, Joyce Redfearn and Professor David Nethercot – have been appointed to support Sir Martin Moore-Bick with the Grenfell Tower inquiry. Montgomery, who has a long track record in the Civil Service, will assist on community engagement. Redfearn, a former CEO of Wigan Primary Care Trust and before that Gloucestershire County Council, will advise on local authority management. Nethercot, a professor of Civil Engineering at Imperial College will weigh-in on design and construction issues.
YOUR TRAINS HAVE BEEN CANCELLED
Last week’s London Assembly Transport Committee session confirmed that the procurement of 27 new trains for the Jubilee and Northern lines has been formally cancelled by TfL – a month after news of a ‘pause’ in the procurement process leaked to the press. According to David Hughes, TfL’s Director of Service and Strategy Development, the move was primarily the result of smaller-than-projected Tube revenue over the summer, which led to the need to ‘re-prioritise’ key investment projects. This latest move certainly raises some uncomfortable questions about TfL’s ability to fund modernisation and expansion in the face of fare freezes and dwindling support from central government.
In a by-election in Wandsworth’s Thamesmead ward, Labour has increased its vote share by 10% compared to the 2014 local election, though this was not enough to take the Tory-held seat in what is the borough’s second safest Conservative ward. It is notable that, according to LCA’s own early research, if we applied that 4.8% swing across all other wards in the borough, Wandsworth could go Labour next May. Of course, that’s a big ‘if’ – but it will certainly be giving the Tory administration there some pause. Meanwhile, in a by-election in the Gospel Oak ward in Camden, Labour increased its vote share by 10.5% to hold the seat. Interestingly, the Lib Dems also saw an increase in vote share in both Thamesfield (by 5.3%) and a sizeable one in Gospel Oak (18.7%). This will be motivating for Lib Dems in South West London, but also in places like Islington and Haringey where they have been a presence in the past. These should be the last by-elections we see in London as the 'six month rule' is now in place. From now, if any London councillors vacate their seat, it will remain empty until polling day.
KHAN HE DELIVER?
A year-and-a-half into his tenure, the Mayor of London is certainly living up to his role as an ambassador for the cultural capital of the world. Most recently, Sadiq Khan featured in an MTV awards TV spot alongside pop star Rita Ora, received a shout-out from U2’s Bono and was even interviewed by Naomi Campbell for Vogue. However, Sadiq has also faced criticism from sections of the property industry for being ‘inaccessible’ and ‘cold’ to those he is tasking with delivering more than 60k homes annually. The complaints are not just coming from developers; local government figures, particularly from outer London, have been venting their frustration about the affordable housing targets put forward by the Mayor last month. Steve Barton, strategic planning manager at Labour-led Ealing Council has commented to Planning Resource that doubling the council’s target is ‘completely undeliverable’. Meanwhile, Councillor Kevin Davis, the Tory Leader of the Royal Borough of Kingston upon Thames has written a highly critical piece for ConservativeHome, in which he argued that the Mayor’s policy could ‘see the destruction of the post war suburbs that contribute to the quality of life of ordinary Londoners.’ We have noted in previous editions of LDN that Sadiq is not shy when it comes to demanding action from others, particularly Government (more money for housing, money for policing, tax-raising powers, more responsibility for heath services), and he is certainly a masterful campaigner, but of course this is partly because the actual powers of the Mayoralty are rather limited. A good test of this campaigning ability will be in the Autumn Budget and the deal Sadiq has managed to cut for London with the Chancellor.
BUILD UP NOT OUT
Of course, politicians and the property sector alike have been badgering the Chancellor ceaselessly ahead of next week’s budget in the hope of some radical move to address and alleviate the housing crisis. London’s G15 group of housing associations, alongside others including Orbit and Midland Heart have written to Philip Hammond asking him to take on board the recommendations of Conservative MP for Sudbury John Penrose to ‘Build Up Not Out’. By this, Penrose means the extension of permitted development rights so that planning permission is no longer required for property owners to build up to the height of the tallest building in the same block, or to the height of mature local trees. The aim of this would be to produce mansion blocks rather than towers and would limit the need to build on green-belt land. So far, Hammond has been tight-lipped about what we can expect to hear next Wednesday.
As we wait for the High Court decision on the Judicial Review into the Haringey Development Vehicle, Labour candidate selections across the borough have taken on extra weight as a proxy for Labour members’ satisfaction with the council’s current administration and their controversial regeneration programme. Last week, Claire Kober, Haringey Council’s Labour leader was re-selected for her council ward but Tottenham Hales Lorna Reith was not as lucky; she was replaced by anti-HDV campaigner and Corbyn support Ruth Gordon. Five wards will have their selection meetings tonight.
ROBIN HOOD FLATS GET READY FOR BIG MOVE
The V&A has bought a three storey section of the Robin Hood Gardens estate in Tower Hamlets. The blocks are currently being demolished but two maisonette flats will join the museum’s artefacts collection as a pioneering example of utilitarian development. Despite a public campaign, the Government could not be convinced that the blocks, completed in 1972 and designed by Alison and Peter Smithson, were worthy of listed status when the Twentieth Century Society applied in 2008 and again in 2015. English Heritage has previously said that Robin Hood Gardens has ‘failed as a place for human beings to live’.
Robin Hood Gardens, completed 1972, designed by Alison and Peter Smithson – The Victoria and Albert Museum, London.
Tomorrow LCA will be attending the Centre for London’s seventh annual London Conference, which this year will focus on the causes of inequality and the potential for more inclusive growth. This evening we there is a pre-conference dinner hosted by Centre for London and sponsored by Northbank BID.
LONDON COUNCILS SUMMIT
This Saturday, for the 8th year running, our Executive Chairman Robert Gordon Clark and the LSE’s Professor Tony Travers will be presenting some insights into the upcoming London Local Elections to many of the capital’s councillors at the annual London Councils Summit at the Guildhall.
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