A (PLANNING) STORM IS COMING...
It is rare that we start LDN with LCA news. But last week we made it to 21 and so now have the keys to….well our office, as we re-opened to staff who want to come in to work (and use the AC)! As London, and central London especially, faces a difficult recovery, we certainly feel some sense of duty in unlocking our Covent Garden doors once again.
More importantly we are delighted to announce that Jenna Goldberg, who along with handling many clients is also LDN’s editor, and Suzi Lawrence, our Client Services Director have been promoted to the Board as of 1 August. They join me, Jonny Popper, Jane Groom and Chris Madel as executive Board members alongside our NEDs, Adrian Wheeler, Steve Norris and Sir Derek Myers.
And now read on for an action packed LDN covering the last two weeks. A quiet August it is not as we get to grips with the Government’s ‘radical’ vision for the future of planning. We have a short summary of the headlines and reactions below and Jenna has given a slightly more opinionated take in her blog here too.
- Robert Gordon Clark, Executive Chairman
PLANNING FOR THE FUTURE
The Government has finally published Planning for the Future, its much-anticipated planning reform White Paper, with the aim of getting more and better designed homes built faster (as well as supporting economic recovery following the pandemic). Many aspects of the paper’s proposals, which are out for consultation until 29 October, had already been long-trailed by the Government. While it is difficult to summarise the 43-page document in full here, we think it’s fair to say the following are the biggest takeaways:
- The paper heralds a shift from a relatively discretionary decision-making system, towards a framework centred on ‘zoning’ – wherein planning authorities would, though their Local Plans, designate all land for either ‘growth’, ‘renewal’ or ‘protection.’
- While protected land would be just that, planning applications on land designated for ‘growth’ and ‘renewal’ would enjoy automatic ‘outline approval’ or ‘a statutory presumption in favour of development’ respectively – as long as they meet Local Plans and Design Codes’ prescriptions.
- Updated and more detailed (but somehow simpler) Local Plans and Design Codes, drafted more rapidly (but somehow with greater input from local residents) are highlighted in the paper as central to realising these proposals.
- Securing final, detailed planning permission for applications in growth and renewal areas would follow a much more rapid process that the current system, using one of several possible routes (it is unclear where and to what degree planning committees would have a role in these).
- The proposals also call for increased use of new technologies and digital tools throughout the Local Plan-making and planning consent processes, to streamline everything and foster greater transparency (suggesting the need for significant investment in this area).
- The proposals also notably call for scrapping developer contributions through Community Infrastructure Levy (CIL) and Section 106, and replacing these with a single ‘Infrastructure Levy’ (the Government promises that this would deliver at least as much affordable housing as the current system).
Of course, the White Paper contains much besides the above – and equally, there’s much it does not mention, especially when it comes to the specifics of planning and development in the capital. As noted above, the future role of local planning committees is entirely unclear, as is the degree to which individual schemes will (or will not) be subject to public consultation.
THE REACTION FROM LONDON
While some commentators have reacted positively, the reaction from the wider built environment sector, civil society and local government has been mostly cool. Regarding the capital specifically: OnLondon has compiled responses from many of London’s leading political and expert stakeholders, from London Councils, to Leader of Camden Council Georgia Gould, Conservative AM and Chair of the London Assembly Planning & Regeneration Committee Andrew Boff and the Centre for London, most of whom seem to have significant reservations. London First has also published a response to the paper, as has the Local Government Association. Similarly, the members of New London Architecture's cross-sector Expert Panel on Planning (Chaired by LCA Managing Director Jonny Popper) have also reacted to the paper's proposals with a number of concerns. As noted above, LCA Board Director and LDN Editor Jenna Goldberg lays out her thoughts on the white paper in a new blog, which you can read here.
LEVELLING OUT LONDON?
In all the planning punditry, you’d be forgiven for missing Robert Jenrick’s earlier announcement of a ‘£1.3bn investment to deliver homes, infrastructure and jobs.’ The press release frames this funding as a bountiful package that will ‘deliver up to 45,000 homes, create up to 85,000 jobs and upgrade skills and infrastructure to help fuel a green economic recovery announced.’ But unpicking the announcement’s detail reveals some questionable arithmetic; £900m, comprising the Getting Building Fund, will be spread across 300 projects across England – specifically projects selected following Robert Jenrick’s call for ‘shovel-ready’ projects in June. The small print at the end of the announcement clarifies that this pot is expected to indirectly ‘unlock’ rather than directly fund those 45,000 homes (which is probably for the better, as it would otherwise have translated into a rather paltry £20,000 outlay per home). Most of the remaining funding is a £360m ‘investment in Mayoral Combined Authority areas’ from the £400m Brownfield Fund, which sounds suspiciously like allocations already announced by the Prime Minister in his Build, Build Build speech last June.
As for what London will get from the above? First off, the press release does not mention the capital even once. A breakdown of the £900m reveals London has been allocated £22m (a meagre 2% of the total), to be spread across several projects. Oh, and London is excluded altogether from the £360m Brownfield Fund.
IT'S WORSE THAN THAT
London local authorities are meanwhile struggling to secure the funding they need just to balance budgets further strained by the pandemic. In its latest, urgent call for central government support, London Councils says that the capital’s boroughs are still facing a £1.4bn funding gap for this year alone. And it also appears that the city’s regional and local authorities are being kept out of the loop when it comes to emergency planning. The weekend before last saw reports of Boris Johnson and ministers ‘war gaming’ new plans for a potential lockdown of London to tackle a potential flareup in coronavirus cases. In a subsequent joint letter, the Mayor and London Councils’ Chair complained that they only learned of the Prime Minister’s exercise, with ‘great surprise [from] the Sunday papers.’ LDN readers may recall that the London Transition Board set up in May and co-chaired by the Mayor and Communities Secretary, is precisely intended ‘to co-ordinate London’s response as it emerges from the COVID-19 lockdown.’ Yet for some reason, there seems to have been no mention of any ‘war games’ at the Transition Board’s latest meeting on 22 July (see topline ‘summary’ here).
...AND LONDON RECOVERY LATEST
The separate London Recovery Board, set up to coordinate the capital’s longer-term recuperation, does appear to be making more substantive progress. This Board (also launched in May, but co-chaired by the Mayor and Chair of London Councils) is now consulting Londoners through the Talk London platform, on questions relating to a variety of economic and social recovery plans. The Recovery Board is not alone in seeking to collect and explore ideas for the capital’s future. The Centre for London think tank recently launched London Futures, an equally wide-ranging, multi-year strategic review to ‘examine the state of London today, explore different scenarios for London’s future and involve Londoners in creating a new shared vision for the city.’ The initial results of both these efforts should begin to emerge this September, which is none too soon. Office of National Statistics (ONS) figures released this week indicate that the employment market is showing distinct signs of strain and confirm that the UK economy now technically in recession following two consecutive quarters of contracting Gross Domestic Product (GDP). While London as a whole is better placed than other parts of the country to weather the storm, many of the city’s sectors are facing an unprecedented crisis, most notably those comprising its tourism industry, as well as arts and culture.
ARTS AND CULTURE UPDATE
Indeed, sadly a number of major cultural venues in London have announced sweeping job cuts. Protests have taken place and strike action is being mooted as Tate galleries plan to lay off 200 staff and the Southbank Centre and National Theatre another 400 each. Meanwhile, these and other London venues including the National Theatre and Royal Festival Hall turned their lights red in solidarity with the nationwide Red Alert campaign to protect the live music, theatre and events sectors. With people’s livelihoods at stake, the blame game is on: the Government, employers and even the Mayor’s Night Czar are all in the firing line. Blame aside, the challenges facing culture affect us all and it is encouraging to see the Local Government Association and Creative Industries Federation teaming up to produce a new guide for councils working to support the recovery of their local creative industries. More cheerfully, the 13th, biggest and perhaps weirdest sculpture to adorn Trafalgar Square’s Fourth Plinth was recently unveiled, while Brent 2020 has released an updated London Borough of Culture programme.
CITY HALL PLANNING AND HOUSING
Much has happened at City Hall in the last fortnight:
- Last week, the Mayor launched a consultation on the affordability of intermediate homes with a specific focus on key workers. This is housing which is affordable for people who cannot afford to buy or rent a suitable home on the open market, but who are also noteligible for homes at social rent levels. The consultation will run until 11 October.
- Following the first 'virtual' public hearing for an application called in by City Hall, Deputy Mayor for Planning Jules Pipe last week granted part-detailed and part-outline planning permission to Thameside West, a joint venture scheme by LCA client Keystone London and GLA Land & Property. The scheme, which is located in the Royal Docks and Beckton Riverside Opportunity Area, aims to deliver up to 5,000 homes (39% affordable) 19,400 sqm of employment floorspace and over 7,000 sqm of flexible retail and leisure space.
- On 5 August, Deputy Mayor for Housing and Regeneration Tom Copley made his first appearance before his former colleagues on the London Assembly Housing Committee, to answer questions on the impact of COVID-19 on housing. Copley responded to questioning with the knowledge and verve of a true housing wonk, but was momentarily put on the spot by Green AM and Mayoral candidate Sian Berry, who pointed out that the Mayor has not updated his estate regeneration ballot transparency data disclosures in over six months (Copley and Berry had both campaigned in favour of the ballots policy).
On which note, we are keenly awaiting the 16th London Plan Annual Monitoring Report, which has been promised ‘in summer 2020’.
LONDON BOROUGHS PLANNING LATEST
London’s Town Halls are also very busy indeed on the planning and development front. Indicatively:
- Greenwich Council has signed a £300m contract for the delivery of up to 750 new modular homes on 60 sites, reportedly over five years.
- Camden Council has formally adopted the Kentish Town Planning Framework as a Supplementary Planning Document, which will now serve as an important consideration in decisions of planning applications in the area.
- Newham has meanwhile launched an online consultation, to run until October, on a new Stratford Masterplan, aimed at shaping a ‘15 year vision’ for the Council’s biggest town centre.
- Following a long and contentious application process, Southwark’s Planning Committee has approved joint plans for new stadium and 219 flats by Dulwich Hamlets FC and Meadows Residential.
- However, in will undoubtedly have been a disappointing development for all parties involved, housebuilder Redrow has withdrawn from its role as Wandsworth’s development partner in the 1,000-home Alton Estate regeneration scheme.
The Government confirmed 36 new appointments to the Lords last week. We noticed several prominent London figures receiving peerages, including:
- the owner of the Evening Standard (and current employer of former Chancellor George Osborne), Evgeny Lebedev
- The PM’s brother, former MP for Orpington and Minister Jo Johnson.
- Dame Nemat Shafik, head of the London School of Economics and Political Science
- Former Labour MP for Vauxhall Kate Hoey
- Leader of Hillingdon Council Councillor Ray Puddifoot
- Former Kensington & Chelsea Councillor Daniel Moylan
- and the PM’s current chief of staff and former Deputy Mayor of London Sir Eddie Lister
In other people moves of significance in London and its wider region:
- Simon Allford has been elected as RIBA’s new President.
- Newham councillor Julianne Marriott (East Ham Central) has stood down after having taken on a full-time job.
- Claire Hamilton has been appointed Chief Executive of Dacorum Borough Council.
- Councillors Bob Boyce and Michael Helm have left the ruling Conservative group of Maldon District Council, leaving the Council without a majority.
We’re also pleased to hear that LCA client Tonic Housing has appointed three new members to its team: Matthew Riley is joining as Communications and Marketing Manager, Danny Hibbs-Woodings as Community Outreach Coordinator and Brian Patterson as Sales and Customer Relationship Manager.
Strange things are afoot at Conservative Campaign Headquarters (CCHQ) these days. Guido Fawkes has reported that ‘a number of staff’ have been made redundant, with the ‘sackings’ falling ‘disproportionately on the London division.’ The website cites unnamed sources talking about ‘pessimism' over Shaun Bailey’s mayoral campaign as one reason for the move.’ Meanwhile, appearing at the Centre for Social Justice last week, Bailey revealed a new campaign team backed by Home Secretary Priti Patel and a new slogan, ‘Shaun Bailey for a more equal London’. Even Boris pitched in, lending Bailey a full Tweet of support. In his speech, Bailey said that class is just as important as race, saying that he has ‘more in common with white working-class people than I do with black people from wealthy backgrounds’. He also accused the current Mayor of ‘forgetting his roots’ and ‘betraying communities.’ It is too early to say how effective these new tactics will be, but the changes will have to be drastic if Bailey is to significantly narrow the gap in the polls.
…speaking of which, Redfield & Wilton Strategies has published new London Mayoral election voting intention polling. Carried out earlier this month, the poll of 2,500 Londoners offers valuable insight on the trajectory of voting intentions since the announcement of the election’s delay to May 2021 and the withdrawal of two candidates from the race (namely Independent Rory Stewart and Lib Dem Siobhan Benita). The headline is that incumbent Sadiq Khan remains solidly in the lead, with 49% of respondents saying that they would vote for him as their first preference. Bailey remains in second place with 26% of the vote, the still-TBC Lib Dem candidate with 12% and Green Sian Berry with 9%. It would appear that Stewart’s prospective voters have been redistributed mostly to Khan’s opponents, with the Lib Dems actually boosted, even though they haven’t got a face to go on their ticket quite yet. The polling also asked respondents about the key policy area that will affect the way they vote. This polling has found that the top three issues are ‘economic growth’ (20%), housing (18%) and healthcare (14%).
A GREENER LONDON?
The Mayor has unveiled data which shows that since 2016, the reduction in levels of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in London has been five times greater than in the rest of the country. The data is being submitted to the Commons’ Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, in response to a call for evidence as part of their scrutiny of the Government’s air pollution reduction strategy. According to City Hall, London’s success has been a result of ‘local policy’ as opposed to efforts by the national government. Then again, the day before that, Khan issued a ‘high air pollution alert’ for ozone emissions reacting dangerously with the heatwave; that announcement didn’t have much to say about who was responsible. TfL has meanwhile announced the installation of new Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) cameras ahead of its planned expansion next year. The ULEZ currently covers the same areas as the Congestion Charge Zone but will expand to the North and South Circular in October 2021.
Many of the above stories touch, whether directly or indirectly, on the issue of inequality and its various economic, cultural and other manifestations. While the Government’s ‘levelling up’ agenda panders to a simplistic view of divergences between London and the rest of the country, the pandemic and almost simultaneous explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement have served to lay bare the complex reality of inequality within the capital. Sometimes, relevant issues are clouded by diverging views of an individual event: See for example the furore raised by London Labour MP Dawn Butler and a friend stopped by the police. While Butler asserts she was ‘racially profiled,’ the Met police has apologised for making what officers say was an honest mistake during a routine check. However, there is undoubtedly hard evidence of persistent inequalities within the capital. A recent report on geographical inequalities in the UK by the Institute for Fiscal Studies confirms that while the capital taken as a monolithic whole compares favourably with other parts of the country on indicators like productivity and earnings, inequality within London is far higher than in any other part of the UK. Indicatively, the IFS report notes that after accounting for housing costs, a full 28% of Londoners live in poverty, compared with the 22% UK-wide average.
ORIEL CONSULTATION LAUNCH
We are delighted to be supporting the world-leading partnership of Moorfields Eye Hospital NHS Foundation Trust, UCL, and Moorfields Eye Charity on proposals for a new centre for eye care, research and education in Camden. The joint initiative, known as Oriel, plans to bring clinicians and scientists closer together in a new, integrated centre to optimise developments in care and research for the benefit of patients. If approved, it will relocate all NHS services from Moorfields Eye Hospital on City Road and UCL Institute of Ophthalmology on Bath Street in Islington to a new, purpose-built facility in Camden. Last week marked a milestone for the project as we launched the public planning consultation on the early design proposals. For more details visit the Oriel website.
LCA prides itself on its intelligence-led approach to PR and communications and our dedicated research team monitors London politics, news and issues as it happens. If you would like to know more about LCA or anything in this edition of LDN – London in short please get in touch.
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