MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY NEW YEAR FROM LCA!
Welcome to the 10th edition of the new LDN – London in short and the final one of 2018.
As you all wind down towards Christmas we thought we’d provide you with the festive long read you’ve all been waiting for – our take on the new, draft London Plan.
It’s big, it’s bold in places and the Mayor wants it taken seriously but how has it been received so far? Read our blog here and do let us know what you think.
Meanwhile, below you can read about the latest on Grenfell, some key planning decisions from across the capital and some big moves for some impressive London women.
Enjoy and we’ll see you in January!
GRENFELL, SIX MONTHS ON
Last Thursday marked six months since the Grenfell Tower tragedy which took the lives of 71 people and the homes of hundreds more. An emotional memorial service was held at St Paul’s Cathedral, attended by survivors, other local residents, members of the Royal Family and senior politicians. The event stirred up many painful memories as well as political acrimony, with Conservative Kensington and Chelsea Councillors asked to stay away from the event, former Mayor Boris Johnson accusing Sadiq Khan of a ‘spineless’ response to the tragedy and Theresa May ‘spotted heading into St Paul's through the back entrance’ to attend the event. But amidst the city’s mourning, efforts are underway to ensure the tragedy is not forgotten, and that its hard lessons are learned. Renowned director Steve McQueen, himself a West Londoner, has announced he will be self-funding and filming a Grenfell Tower tribute to be exhibited by a London museum. Meanwhile, the independent review of building regulations and fire safety led by Dame Judith Hackitt has published its interim report. The report was welcomed by the Secretary for Communities and Local Government Sajid Javid and Hackitt also discussed the inquiry’s progress and findings with the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee. In brief, the work of the review has thus far found that current regulatory frameworks for ensuring fire safety in high-rise and complex buildings, throughout their life-cycle, are ‘not fit for purpose’. It calls for ‘cultural change’ in the construction industry, as well as for regulators to ensure better enforcement to ‘hold to account those who try to cut corners.’ Interestingly though, it only made page 4 of the Evening Standard, whilst the appointment of the first female Bishop of London made the front page.
BOJO BACK AT CITY HALL
Boris Johnson has been summoned by the London Assembly, under the powers of the GLA Act 1999, to appear at City Hall early next year. This is the first time the legal instrument has been used on a former Mayor of London and he will face questions on the aborted Garden Bridge project. GLA Oversight Committee chair Len Duvall confirmed the Assembly would ‘seek to hear from Johnson directly about his involvement’ and 22 February is set as the working date for his attendance; non-attendance is a criminal offence. Earlier this year, Johnson declined to participate in Dame Margaret Hodge’s independent review into the project, but he is now required by law to appear. A spokesman for Johnson slammed current Mayor Sadiq Khan for the decision to call him in, despite the fact that the decision was approved by Assembly Members from all parties. However, Conservative AM Andrew Boff has taken the opportunity to question the ‘honour’ of Dame Hodge, after a relevant Committee on Standards inquiry found she had inappropriately used Commons resources during her review. Dame Hodge was forced to deliver a public apology and pay back a whopping £2.97 for using House of Commons stationery.
SADIQ REFUSES REGEN PLANS
Sadiq Khan has for the first time called in an estate regeneration plan in order to refuse it. Khan described plans by housing association Genesis, approved by Conservative controlled Barnet Council, to regenerate the Grahame Park estate in Colindale as ‘how not to do estate regeneration’, arguing that it would have led to a net loss of 257 social rented homes. In a press release, Khan mentions his policy of like-for-like replacement of social rent homes during regeneration, which is contained in the new draft London Plan, despite the fact that the document itself is not yet technically in force. Barnet Council and Genesis must now come up with a solution which results in no net loss of affordable homes, even though the Council claims it worked closely with the GLA on resolving social housing issues before the plans were approved at Barnet’s planning committee last month – with the three architectural practices involved also asserting their design was fully in line with local and national standards. This is the second high profile intervention in Barnet, a top Labour target in May’s local elections (the Conservatives have a majority of one at present), in as many months. Meanwhile, the final version of Mayor’s long-awaited Good Practice Guide to Estate Regeneration is now expected in January
WALTHAMSTOW MALL GRANTED PLANNING PERMIT
Waltham Forest Council has granted outline planning permission to redevelop The Mall shopping centre in Walthamstow. Capital & Regional’s plans will see over 500 new homes built across four tower blocks in the town centre, one of which will stack up to around 29-storeys (which is significantly higher than the 12-storey Travelodge which is currently the tallest building in the area). Planning consent was also granted to redesign the Town Square and extend The Mall with new shops and leisure facilities. While the scheme was recommended for approval by officers and won the support of all four Labour members of the Planning Committee, it has proved highly controversial within the local community. A petition against it has been signed by over 2,000 local residents and groups, and a further 948 people submitted objections to the Labour-run Council, with concerns expressed about the height of the proposed towers, the number of affordable homes being provided (20%) and the loss of existing public space. The Committee’s sole Conservative councillor also opposed the scheme. The scheme will now go to the GLA for final approval.
MAYORAL CREATIVE ENTERPRISE ZONES
The Mayor of London has announced plans to establish Creative Enterprise Zones (CEZs) across the capital, with the intention of safeguarding artists’ and creative businesses’ workspaces. City Hall estimates that the creative industries contribute £42bn to the capital’s economy annually and employ one in six working Londoners. CEZs will be modelled on Enterprise Zones and boroughs have been invited to bid for one of ten £50,000 grants to support the development of their own zones. The move is the latest in a string of initiatives launched by Sadiq Khan with the aim of protecting workspace – from offices to light industrial facilities – as well as London’s cultural assets and the night-time economy. It is unclear how much boroughs can hope to achieve with £50,000 – the intention is that within the zones the boroughs will offer incentives like business rate relief to creatives – but it is worth noting that a draft version Mayor’s Cultural Strategy, which would tie all of these policies together was due to be published this past autumn and is now expected early next year.
BARNIER SAYS ‘NON’ TO THE CITY
The EU's chief Brexit negotiator Michel Barnier has told several European newspapers that the UK cannot secure a special deal for the City of London if it persists on quitting the single market. Damping the optimism which arose from recent progress on the Brexit divorce, Barnier attributed the situation to ‘the red lines that the British have chosen themselves’ noting that ‘in leaving the single market, they lose the financial services passport.’ While not altogether unexpected, this position will do little to reassure banks’ confidence in London and will apply considerable pressure on No 10 and City Hall alike to come up with a workable solution they can sell to the EU, the global financial sector and crucially, the British public.
PAUL SCULLY MP STEPS UP
MP for Sutton & Cheam Paul Scully has been appointed as the Conservative Party’s new Vice Chair for London. This follows the sacking of Wimbledon MP Stephen Hammond from the post he had only held for five months, after he defied the party whip on a key Brexit vote. While he has a relatively low profile as a backbencher, it is notable that Scully won his seat from the Liberal Democrats in 2015 and increased his vote share by 9.6% in this year’s general elections (bucking the trend of Liberal Democrat gains in South West London). Scully is also active in both London All Party Parliamentary Groups (APPGs). The Conservatives evidently hope that he holds the secret to regaining the influence (and votes) the party has gradually lost to Labour in the capital in the past two decades – a tough ask for any Conservative MP and even more so for a Brexiteer such as Scully. London blogger and journalist Dave Hill has lamented Hammond’s sacking and the right wing media’s criticism of him and fellow London MP Bob Neil given the pair’s consensual approach to politics and ongoing work examining how Tory fortunes can be revived in London.
100 years after women won the right to vote in the UK, Sadiq Khan has launched a campaign to celebrate those who have fought – and those who continue to struggle – for true gender equality. The #BehindEveryGreatCity campaign’s events and art programme will run throughout 2018. The Mayor has already announced the commissioning of a statue of suffragette leader Millicent Fawcett, to be placed in Parliament Square, while Art on the Underground, Transport for London’s public art programme, will focus on commissioning and showcasing women artists in stations and trains over the next year.
LONDON’S NEW BISHOP
Meanwhile, following the example of the capital’s police and fire brigade services, the Church of England has put a woman at the helm in charge of its London see. The Right Reverend Dame Sarah Mullally has been appointed the 133rd Bishop of London, an influential position which comes with a seat in the House of Lords. Mullally is a former nurse who rose to the post of Chief Nursing Officer for England in 1999. She was consecrated as the fourth female Bishop in the Church of England in July 2015, taking up her most recent role as Bishop of Crediton in September of that year.
HARINGEY REGENERATION CHIEF STEPS DOWN
Lyn Garner, Haringey Council’s Strategic Director for Regeneration, Planning & Development, is poised to leave the borough and take up a new role as CEO of the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC).
HOUSING SECTOR REPORTS BY THE DOZEN
Housing sector policy debates are reaching fever pitch nationally and in the capital especially, with central government and City Hall currently running numerous consultations and independent reviews. This of course means plenty of lobbying opportunities and the past week alone has seen three noteworthy reports released. In ‘Brown for Blue: Land to house London’s emergency workers’ the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) proposes that a small part of London’s Green Belt be set aside for the specific need of providing affordable housing, to rent, for ‘blue light’ emergency services workers. In ‘Homes on our high streets’, the Federation of Master Builders (FMB) explores how existing buildings in and around town centres can be used to deliver more new homes, focusing especially on empty spaces above shops. And in ‘Homes for Everyone: How to get Britain building and restore the home ownership dream’, a report for the Centre for Policy Studies, Conservative MP for Croydon South Chris Philp proposes several reforms to the planning system, including reserving a proportion of new-build homes for purchase by UK residents only.
This week, as we approach Christmas, we heard news that a scheme for Brockton in Tower Hamlets to convert an old building into flexible co-working space was granted planning permission. This is the 21st major planning permission for LCA clients in 2017, across no less than 15 of the capital’s 33 boroughs. Our work has ranged from amending a permission to allow rugby union to be played in a new stadium to plans for a temporary pop up theatre on the South Bank, and from the conversion of an old industrial estate in outer London to a mixed use residential and office scheme to a new post 16 film school in Islington, as well as a wide range of residential, commercial, retail, hotel and leisure developments. We also had a 100% success rate at planning committee throughout all of 2015 and 2016.
A SCEPTICAL BPF AUDIENCE
Last week, LCA heard cautious welcomes combined with outright criticism for the new London Plan at a British Property Federation event. Darren Richards, who heads up the London Plan team at the GLA, was present to explain and defend. Discussion focussed on how the GLA would encourage suburban areas like Bromley or Kingston to accept higher housing numbers, in the face of political opposition from boroughs not willing to change the character of their areas to suit the Mayor – what many see at the battle between suburban and urban town centres. Other comments from panellists included the Plan being too long and prescriptive, while also lacking detail on spatial planning. However the key question was what the Mayor will do if Boroughs fail to deliver enough new housing and how long will he wait to act.
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