NO SIGNS OF A SLOW DOWN?
The Mayor doesn’t seem to be slowing down for Christmas just yet. The economy has been the theme of his week as he has commissioned new studies into the impact of Brexit and launched a new economic strategy.
Meanwhile, money or the lack of it is at the heart of Lord Kerslake’s resignation from King’s College Hospital, a significant move by a hugely respected civil servant.
With three months still to run just on the consultation of the new draft London Plan it is interesting to see how it has been received in Kingston – see below on the impact it has had on a scheme there – and how the GLA are talking about it to the wider industry.
As always, let us know what you think of our weekly email and if there’s anything you think we should be covering as we head towards 2018.
MAYOR’S ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT STRATEGY
The Mayor has today launched his draft Economic Development strategy, setting out his strategic economic vision for the capital by 2041. The strategy, informed by all preceding Mayoral policy such as the draft London Plan, will be guided by creating a more inclusive economy, delivering the infrastructure for London’s economy to thrive, supporting London’s key sectors and driving for further devolution to the capital. Alongside the launch, the Mayor announced a bevy of other initiatives to help business grow in the capital including a £100m SME fund for growing businesses (a one-off pot comprised of money from the European Regional Development Fund and European Investment Bank among a few other sources), and what has been called the Mayor’s Civic Innovation Challenge, an initiative that will provide 15 companies with support to develop ideas to solve the biggest issues facing Londoners, ranging from inequality to air quality. Three companies will receive £15,000 to take things further. The consultation period for the draft strategy ends on 13 March; City Hall has invited all organisations to share their views on it, which you are able to do here.
KHAN EYEBALLING BREXIT
The Mayor of London has commissioned Cambridge Econometrics to produce a series of studies into the impact of Brexit on nine key sectors for London and the UK. The studies will cover financial and professional services, construction, hospitality, as well as science and technology. Interestingly, each sectoral study will model five scenarios, ranging from a ‘status quo’ scenario where the UK remains within the single market and customs union, all the way up to a ‘hard Brexit’ scenario with no transition period. City Hall’s relevant announcement pulls no political punches, criticising the government for a ‘chaotic’ approach to Brexit and arguing out that it has ‘failed to keep a consistent line on whether sectoral analyses of the impact on Brexit exist’. But political point-scoring aside, the studies themselves could serve as a valuable resource for businesses concerned about weathering Brexit in the capital. The studies are apparently due to be published in January, so we assume the Cambridge Econometrics team will be celebrating Christmas in the office this year.
TOWER HAMLETS BRIBERY CLAIMS
Meanwhile, The Sunday Times has been shown evidence that indicates a businessman with close ties to the local Tower Hamlets Labour Group attempted to extort £2m from a developer, in order to guarantee planning permission for a major project. The newspaper reports that Far East Consortium (FEC) was introduced to Abdul “Shuks” Khalisadar by Labour Deputy Mayor Shiria Khatun in October 2015, as someone who could assist them getting their 65-storey Alpha Square proposal approved at committee. In return, Shuks is said to have proposed that FEC pay four Labour politicians ‘half a mill’ each. Rather than act on his advice, FEC taped the conversation and reported the approach to Mayor John Biggs. In response Biggs called an investigation led by accountancy firm EY to examine the evidence and this has now escalated up to a review by the National Crime Agency. Khatun resigned from her role in June this year.
KING’S CHAIR QUITS
Lord Kerslake has unexpectedly resigned from his position as chair of King’s College Hospital, protesting that ‘dire NHS funding problems’ and hospitals being given unrealistic savings targets gave him no choice. In an article in The Guardian Lord Kerslake, who is also president of the Local Government Association and has served as head of the civil service as well as permanent secretary at the Department for Communities and Local Government, said savings of £80m had been delivered in each of the last two years. He further argued that the government and its regulators were not ‘facing up to the enormous challenges that the NHS is currently facing’ and needs a ‘fundamental rethink.’ This week it has emerged he was asked to consider his position as NHS Improvement placed the trust into financial special measures, saying its finances were the worst in the NHS and ‘not acceptable’ – the hospital had agreed its shortfall for 2017/18 would be £38m but this is now forecast to hit £92m. Ian Smith, a former private health care boss, has already been appointed as King’s interim chair.
WESTFIELD BOUGHT OUT
Australian retail giants Westfield this week agreed to be sold to French property group Unibail-Rodamco for £18.5bn, eclipsing Hammerson’s recent £3.4bn acquisition of Intu. Both deals have been viewed by the industry as a consolidation of a different, more customer-focused retail offering as online shopping continues to boom.
COMPETING OVER CULTURE
The GLA has received 22 bids from boroughs across the capital who aspire to be crowned London Borough of Culture for either 2019 or 2020. The two winning boroughs and up to six others will receive City Hall’s support and funding to deliver a year-long programme (for the two winners) and bespoke cultural projects. It is interesting to note that the list of bidders does not include some of London’s most prominent cultural hubs (Westminster and Kensington & Chelsea are conspicuously absent). But the initiative is explicitly intended to ‘actively promote creative activities which often fall under the radar’ – suggesting an informal preference for ‘less obvious’ boroughs and communities. Aside from the ‘up to £1.1m revenue grant’ offered to the two Major Award winners and £50k-£200k awards for ‘exemplary individual projects in other boroughs’, participants are encouraged to apply to project partners Paul Hamlyn Foundation and Heritage Lottery Fund for additional grants. The winners will be announced in February 2018.
IN OTHER NEWS FROM NORTH LONDON
Haringey Council has confirmed Zina Etheridge as the borough's permanent chief executive – she was initially appointed in an interim role in March. Meanwhile, a by-election in Enfield last week saw Ergun Eren holding Enfield Highway ward for Labour; Eren won the ward with 1,619 votes, against the Conservative runner-up’s 622 votes – a swing of 7.85% from the Conservatives to Labour, compared to the 2014 Local Election result.
KINGSTON DECISION DEFERRED DUE TO DRAFT LONDON PLAN
Kingston Council’s Development Control Committee resolved to defer a planning decision on a major scheme last week, to give the Council more time to ‘assess the implications of the draft London Plan'. Despite some councillors voicing the view that the draft plan means ‘very little at the moment’, others were keen to ensure that officers are given time to digest the detail of the ‘weighty’ new document, which is currently out for consultation until 2 March 2018. The committee were considering revised plans from Meyer Homes, for 950 homes on the Former Government Offices site in Tolworth. Officers had recommended it for approval and had already sat through the officer’s presentation as well as speeches from local objectors and the applicant. Was this a handy excuse for deferral or genuine deference to policy that has not yet been officially adopted? Could we see more deferrals in the capital during and after the London Plan’s consultation period?
CROSSRAIL 2 DELAYED?
Buried in page 55 of last month’s Autumn 2017 Budget document, the government equivocates on the next steps for Crossrail 2, noting that work must continue with TfL for ‘developing fair and affordable plans’ and that ‘an independent review of funding and financing’ is also required. Yesterday, the GLA’s Budget & Performance Committee vented their frustration at this further delay, complaining that progress on a Hybrid Bill remained ‘disappointingly slow’. The Committee also recommended that the Mayor publish the detail of his proposals to fund half of Crossrail 2 during construction, to move discussions forward.
CROSSRAIL 1 ON SCHEDULE
Meanwhile, Crossrail 1, aka the Elizabeth Line, has made several steps forward in the past week. Tucked away in a press release announcing the awarding of contracts for new lifts at four Elizabeth Line stations it was noted that TfL Rail and its contractor MTR Crossrail has now taken over the running of 11 stations between Acton Main Line and Taplow (excluding Slough) from Great Western Railway. Meanwhile, TfL has also announced that in February 2018 it will be launching a formal tender process to secure six commercial partners, who will be offered 12 months of sector-exclusive advertising rights across the Elizabeth Line. The first Crossrail services are scheduled to run in December 2018, and the line should be fully operational a year later.
KHAN WISHES LONDON A HAPPY CHANUKAH
Over 1,000 gathered in Trafalgar Square last night for the annual Chanukah In The Square celebration. Among others, including Chief Rabbi Emphraim Mirvis, the Mayor of London, Sadiq Khan took to the stage to share a message of goodwill to all present, saying ‘In this city if you are Jewish, Muslim or any faith, we don’t just tolerate you – we respect you’. Last night was the 10th anniversary of the event being held at Trafalgar Square; the Menorah will remain lit for the eight days of the festival.
LONDON FIRST HOSTS JULES PIPE
LCA is keeping a close eye on developments relating to the Mayor’s new draft London Plan and last week, we attended a London First event on the subject. Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, spoke to the business audience and, flanked by a group of the GLA officers, fielded questions. Pipe asserted that, while still in draft form, the Plan ‘can be applied immediately at local level’ – see how this advice is being interpreted in the Kingston story above. Also notable was Pipe’s warning that only ‘two or three boroughs’ can really make the case for housing on ‘a very little bit’ of Strategic Industrial Land (SIL). But he also underlined the GLA’s interest in exploring any innovative, mixed use and especially ‘plan-led’ approaches to development. The Deputy Mayor also expressed great confidence in the effectiveness of fast-tracking developments that met affordable housing thresholds, arguing that they have already brought about a ‘sea change’ in developers’ approach, creating ‘a huge amount of certainty’.
BRENTFORD COMMUNITY STADIUM
Last week, LCA clients Brentford Football Club and development partner Be Living Ltd were granted permission by Hounslow Council to make a number of amendments to the Brentford Community Stadium. The Club already had permission for a 20,000-seat stadium and 910 enabling homes, but these important design adjustments follow a careful project review over the past two and a half years. The changes look to ensure the stadium is as financially robust and deliverable as possible, compliant with Premier League and Premiership Rugby rules from day one, and deliver improvements to the public realm and residential design. You can read the full story on Brentford’s Community Stadium website here.
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