It’s been quite a hectic week for London – and definitely a busy one for the LCA team.
Do the Christmas holidays feel like they were months ago? Remember the General Election? It was only last month. If the beginning of January has been a blast of cold air for you, spare a thought for the beleaguered Crossrail team, our friends in the struggling retail sector and the long-serving leader of Wandsworth Council – all have had a somewhat challenging start to 2020.
On a more positive note, residents of Brent are set for a boost this weekend as they become the latest Borough of Culture and if you need some distraction from the January blues there is plenty going on at King’s Cross. Meanwhile, one of Europe’s biggest cultural projects, the Museum of London’s relocation to West Smithfield, has moved a step closer to reality.
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Wandsworth’s Conservative Leader has narrowly avoided what the Evening Standard has described as a ‘mutiny’ of fellow Tory councillors. Ravi Govindia has been a Councillor since 1982 and the Council’s Leader since 2011, when he succeeded Sir Edward Lister (who went on to advise Boris Johnson as Mayor to 2016, run Homes England and in his latest role, advise the Prime Minister). Apparently spooked by Labour’s electoral gains in the borough, a number of Wandsworth Tories seem to believe fresh leadership is needed. In 2018 Labour narrowly beat the Tories in terms of borough-wide voteshare (38.7% to 38.4%) and while the latter clung onto power, it was with a diminished majority of six, down from 22. Meanwhile, at the recent General Election Labour made its sole national gain in Putney, one of Wandsworth’s three Parliamentary constituencies (all of which are now red). In any event, Govindia has survived a motion of no confidence from within his own group, though the Leader of ‘Mrs Thatcher’s favourite borough’ could yet face another challenge at the Council’s Annual General Meeting in the spring.
As the London Mayoral candidates gear up for the last – and most crucial – four months of campaigning ahead of election day on 7 May, here is a quick roundup of their recent activity:
- Sadiq Khan is evidently keen to fulfil his promise to be ‘the greenest mayor ever’ with the launch of London Power (which delivers on his 2016 manifesto pledge of establishing a not-for-profit company to help Londoners generate more low-carbon energy).
- Meanwhile, Greg Hands (MP for Chelsea and Fulham) has announced that he will be chairing Shaun Bailey’s campaign. Bailey made headlines last week when he called for changes in the law to make homophobic hate crime an aggravated crime like racial and religious hate crime. This follows the revelation that attacks based on sexual orientation in London have increased by 55% in the last five years.
- Crime rates are predictably dominating this campaign, with Independent candidate Rory Stewart calling for ‘thousands more police’ on the streets in an article for the Evening Standard, drawing on harrowing stories from victims he has spoken to during his walking tours of London’s boroughs.
- For her part, Liberal Democrat candidate Siobhan Benita has made a number of transport-related pledges, including launching night buses to outer London, and extending night tubes to the District and Metropolitan lines. She has also said that she will try to bring the Women’s Football World Cup to London and repeated her pledge to back the legalisation of marijuana.
LONDON TRANSPORT LATEST
- While the TfL Commissioner said last week that the central section of Crossrail would be ready no earlier than ‘autumn 2021’, Crossrail Ltd has since stated that it will open in ‘summer 2021’. It is important to note that this date refers specifically to the line’s Paddington to Abbey Wood section. According to Crossrail, it is not until mid-2022 that the entirety of the line will be finished, allowing passengers to travel direct from Heathrow and Reading to Shenfield and Abbey Wood.
- Heathrow has released an updated timetable for the finalisation of its proposals for a third runway. The changes come after the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) capped the amount that could be spent on the project. A new consultation is now scheduled to run for eight weeks from April to June, with the aim of submitting the final planning application to the Planning Inspectorate ‘towards the end of 2020’.
- In yet another blow for HS2, polling commissioned by the London Chamber of Commerce and Industry (LCCI) has shown that 73% of London business leaders think that the project is too expensive and 64% feel that construction related to the project has already, or will, cause ‘too much disruption’. Less than half of those polled believe the project will bring benefits for the economy, with 46% of participants saying that HS2 is unnecessary.
WHERE TO FOR LONDON PROPERTY?
Over the past few days, the papers have been full of conjecture about the health of England’s property sector. An initial burst of enthusiasm following the General Election has given way to a certain wariness and in London specifically the picture remains mixed. The Times has cited analysis by Hamptons International indicating that the share of Londoners moving to the North and the Midlands in search of affordable housing has hit ‘record highs’. Meanwhile, the Financial Times has pointed out that Savills ‘does not expect a big bounce in property markets’. For its part, the Daily Mail highlights bullish assessments of the market by leading property execs – pointing to a recent interview in which Galliard founder and executive chairman Stephen Conway told the Estates Gazette: 'London always bounces. I have never known it not to, and we are just beginning to bounce.' The retail sector will certainly be hoping its own trajectory will soon bounce, though as always challenges breed opportunity and only last week, IKEA’s property arm Ingka Group announced that it has scooped up Hammersmith’s Kings Mall Shopping Centre as part of a £170m city centre investment.
The first round of nominations closed on Monday, with London MP (Islington South & Finsbury) Emily Thornberry apparently securing her 22 nominations with just ten minutes to go. It is understood she may have been helped by Clive Lewis’ decision to stand aside in a ‘spirit of pluralism, diversity, and generosity’. This places her alongside fellow London MP (Holborn & St. Pancras) Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long Bailey, Lisa Nandy and Jess Phillips as part of the final five. Starmer secured 88 nominations, far ahead of Long Bailey, who is in second place with 33. Phillips is in joint third place with Nandy, who recently unveiled a six point plan to ‘restore trust in politics’. Meanwhile, Long Bailey, who has contentiously received the backing of Momentum, revealed that she’d rather like to abolish the House of Lords in an interview with Sky News. All five candidates for Deputy Leader, including London MPs Rosena Allin-Khan (Tooting) and Dawn Butler (Brent Central), have secured enough nominations to go through to the next round. More details on all the candidates can be found here.
To make it onto the final ballot paper, candidates now need to secure nominations from at least 33 constituency parties, or three affiliated organisations, of which two must be trade unions representing at least 5% of affiliates’ membership. CLP/affiliate nominations open today and close on 14 February, according to the full leadership election timetable.
BOUNDARY REVIEW LITE?
The Tories have long promised a Boundary Review to produce constituencies with electorates of approximately the same size, as well as to reduce the total number of MPs from 650 to 600, but relevant plans by the Boundaries Commission remain stuck in the pipeline. There was much speculation following the Conservative victory in December, that Johnson would finally implement them, to consolidate his majority. However, on 11 January the Standard reported that senior Tories are preparing to ask the Boundary Commission to draw entirely new maps. These would tweak constituency boundaries to achieve the original aim of ensuring that every constituency 'has roughly the same number of electors', but would maintain the overall number of MPs at 650. Demographic shifts and other factors mean that constituencies' electorates currently range from 21,000 in the Western Isles to 108,000 on the Isle of Wight, which Conservatives have often complained leads to unequal ‘vote efficiency’ (benefiting Labour). It is thought that both the old and new Boundary Review would give the Tories an overall electoral boost.
TULIP APPEAL (WAIT FOR IT… WAIT FOR IT…)
The backers of the proposed 304m-tall tourist attraction dubbed the ‘Tulip’ are (still) gearing up for an appeal against the Mayor’s rejection of their plans. To recap on the project’s travails to date: architects Fosters + Partners submitted a planning application to the City of London Corporation in November 2018. The City’s planning officers subsequently recommended it be approved and its Planning and Transportation Committee duly gave the project the green light in March 2019. Due to its height, the project was automatically referred to the Mayor of London, who rejected it last summer, largely on the grounds that it would be ‘detrimental’ to its surrounding area, the London skyline, and especially nearby heritage sites. In the months since, Fosters + Partners and site owners (through Bury Street Properties) J. Safra Group have expressed their ‘disappointment’ with the Mayor’s decision and have evidently been mulling over whether or not to contest it. The latest reports indicate that with a six-month cut-off point (19 January) looming, the developers are poised to lodge an appeal, which would see the project taken up by the Planning Inspectorate.
- Craig McWilliam, the chief executive of Grosvenor Britain & Ireland, has stepped down from the business for private reasons. He was due to become CEO of the Grosvenor Group at the end of 2020. James Raynor, who was due to take up the Britain & Ireland role later in the year to replace Craig, takes up this role with immediate effect.
- The City’s Chief Planning Officer, Annie Hampson OBE, has announced that she will retire at the end of March. Recruitment for her successor is underway.
- Rachel McLean has been appointed as Crossrail’s new Chief Financial Officer replacing David Hendry. McLean joins from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) where she was Director General and Chief Financial Officer.
- Commonplace has hired Ealing Councillor and Cabinet Member for Planning and Housing Peter Mason to join its Public Affairs team.
- MPs Bob Neill (Conservative, Bromley & Chislehurst) and Steve Reed (Labour, Croydon North) have been re-elected co-chairs of the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) for London.
Housing Minister Esther McVey yesterday announced measures to provide ‘thousands of new, better-designed homes’, including a somewhat paltry allocation of £1.9m for councils in England to support the creation of new Neighbourhood Plans. In London, the councils receiving funding are Brent, Greenwich, Lambeth and Westminster (though it is still unclear exactly how much each will receive). In other London-based neighbourhood planning news:
LONDON BOROUGH OF CULTURE
The inauguration of Brent’s year as London’s Borough of Culture is set to take place on 18 January with Rise, a family-friendly outdoor show which will ‘tell the story of Brent through dance, theatre and projections’, staged in front of Wembley Stadium. The programme for the rest of the year contains everything from a day-long party on Kilburn High Road, to a reimagining of Chaucer’s Wife of Bath by celebrated author Zadie Smith, who was born and raised in the borough. While taking the title of London Borough of Culture will certainly draw attention to Brent, the hosting of the semi-finals and final of UEFA Euro 2020 at Wembley should also boost interest in what is a very exciting year indeed for the north London borough.
MUSEUM ON THE MOVE
The Museum of London has submitted a planning application to the City of London Corporation that seeks to transform a campus of market buildings in West Smithfield into a world-class, 24-hour cultural destination. The proposals aim to preserve much of the historic fabric of the old market buildings that make up the site, some of which date back to the Victorian era and have fallen into disrepair, by making relatively few contemporary interventions. Designed by the architectural team of Stanton Williams and Asif Khan with Julian Harrap Architects, the aspiration for this new museum – which is due to open in 2024 – is for it to become one of the top ten attractions in the capital, capable of welcoming over two million visitors a year. If planning consent is granted the new Museum of London, one of the biggest cultural projects in Europe, would become one of the highlights of the City of London’s Culture Mile. LCA is proud to have supported the communications on the Museum of London’s move to West Smithfield since 2015.
We are delighted to welcome architectural practice Stride Treglown to the LCA fold. As regular LDN readers will be aware, we recently started expanding our work with architects and design consultancies and – with more than 300 staff across nine UK offices – this is a significant addition to our client list. Headquartered in Bristol, Stride Treglown are built environment experts in 14 specialist sectors and are active across the country. In London, the team is working on a host of projects including schools, student accommodation and buildings at King's Cross and Wembley. They have also just launched a podcast – to find out more, have a listen here.
TIME WELL SPENT AT KING'S CROSS
This week we helped launch Studio Mieke Meijer’s Space Frames at King’s Cross. This is the first of many exciting installations, activities and performances, as part of a year-round events programme. The Space Frames are now lighting up Granary Square so make sure to pay them a visit. Take a look at what other events are happening and how to best spend your time at King’s Cross here.
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