We have made the editorial decision not to focus this week on the recent events in Clapham following the terrible murder of Sarah Everard. So much has been written and said in recent days – including at our own International Women’s Day event last week – that we could fill the whole of LDN with this one issue.
From our perspective as ‘experts’ in the structures and quirks of London, it is notable that 21 years after the introduction of the Mayor of London, confusion still remains about who the Met Commissioner is genuinely accountable to, and where the real political responsibility rests when it comes to policing our Capital. It is cases like this that show us how important clear reporting lines and accountabilities really are; clarity is key in a crisis.
Meanwhile LDN is packed with news as we find ourselves in the last week of “normal” politics, before the pre-election period kicks in for 6 May. Policies, planning, pavements, payments, pains and people all here.
And one reminder. Sunday 21 March 2011 is national Census Day. When first run on 10 March 1801, the population of England, Wales and Scotland was around 10.5 million – basically a bit higher than London’s today. Since then it has been repeated every 10 years, although the 1931 results were lost in a fire. Why is it so important? Well, the results heavily influence the way government spends money especially on issues like policing, housing, transport, education and health. So do fill it in please.
With the ‘pre-election period of sensitivity’ starting on next Monday, things are really heating up on the campaign trail. This week we bring you new polling, another campaign launch and the latest from the Conservative camp:
- Last week Redfield & Wilton released the results of their latest London poll. The findings are very much in line with previous surveys, putting the incumbent candidate Sadiq Khan well ahead on 51% of first-preference votes, Conservative candidate Shaun Bailey on 25%, Lib Dem Louisa Porritt on 8% and the Greens’ Sian Berry on 6%.
- Bailey’s consistently dismal performance in the polls, coupled with accusations that he ‘politicised’ the Sarah Everard case, has generated further speculation about whether he is the right man for the job – see recent columns published by Financial Times, New Statesman, The Spectator and The Telegraph – and even more reports that CCHQ is cutting funding for his campaign.
- But Bailey remains the London Conservatives’ pick and – to his credit – is soldiering on. Last week he pledged to recruit a further 8,000 police officers and introduce ‘high-tech scanners’ to locate concealed weapons if elected and he is reported to have won the support of billionaire Nick Candy for his campaign’s fundraising efforts.
- Placed third in the latest poll, the Lib Dems’ Porritt formally launched her election campaign on Tuesday. The focus of her campaign is set to be ‘jobs, homes and clean air’, including the establishment of a London Housing Company and pledges to scrap the Silvertown Tunnel and introduce a road pricing system.
- Meanwhile, with the national Labour Party having focused its election campaign launch on nurses’ pay, Khan has pledged to give key workers priority access to buy or rent new ‘genuinely affordable housing’ – in one of no less than 24 press releases published on the GLA website by his office since the beginning of March.
- Even a cursory glance at the Mayor’s press releases strongly suggests a desire to burnish the Mayor’s achievements ahead of the pre-election period’s restrictions on publicity kicking in, with announcements plugging everything from the success of efforts to tackle rough sleeping, to the London Scientist programme and latest cycle lane figures.
- The Confederation of British Industry (CBI) has meanwhile published a manifesto proposing steps it wants the next Mayor to take to ‘drive recovery, strengthen the capital’s business eco-system and build an inclusive society’.
Beyond this year’s campaign trail, bigger changes to London’s political playing field electoral system are a-brewing. Home Secretary Priti Patel has announced plans to scrap the current supplementary vote system used in the London Mayoral elections in favour of first past the post, which is also used in General and most Local Elections. The changes would come into effect no earlier than 2024 and would require legislative changes. They have already raised strong objections, and would arguably benefit the two largest parties.
If you thought that Keir Starmer’s ascension to the leadership would herald a quieter time for the Labour Party and its raucous London region, think again. The national party has suspended the East Ham and West Ham constituency Labour parties following reports of ‘a significant number of serious allegations regarding the conduct of Labour Party members and membership recruitment practices in Newham’, while allegations of electoral fraud are also reportedly being investigated by police. Meanwhile, south of the river, LCA hears that Leader of Lambeth Council Cllr Jack Hopkins survived a leadership challenge at a Labour Group meeting which took place on 15 March. Beyond London, there has been controversy over the selection of the party’s candidate for the Liverpool Mayoralty and just the other day the Labour MP for Hartlepool stood down from parliament, ‘sparking an awkward by-election for Keir Starmer in a potentially vulnerable "red wall" seat.’ With party activists on manoeuvres in advance of elections for key Labour Party positions in May and June, and with candidate selection processes for May 2022’s London Borough Elections likely to begin soon, Labour in London – and most everywhere else – is headed for choppy waters.
There’s so much planning news – of both the policy and decisions variety – that we hardly know where to start! But here’s a handy sample of the latest:
- As consultation experts very active in central London, we were especially intrigued by Westminster City Council’s draft Early Community Engagement Guidance, to be discussed at tomorrow’s Planning and City Development Committee. Within, the Council suggests that developers engage with local people before having a first pre-application with officers.
- We’re also keeping an eye on new Local Plans in-the-making across London, including in Lewisham, where proposed Site Allocations are certainly making a splash in the local press – while, up North, Redbridge is poised to begin a review of its own Local Plan.
- The approval of Ealing Council’s Perceval House scheme is making waves locally and in the trade press out West.
- And out East, Tower Hamlets Council, the Greater London Authority and Westferry Developments Limited have reportedly made further progress towards agreeing the controversial Westferry Printworks scheme’s affordable housing and CIL contributions, in advance of a new Panning Inquiry, starting 18 May.
- Also in East London, Peabody’s has secured an £80m grant from the Mayor’s Affordable Housing Programme to support the delivery of ‘more than 1,550 genuinely affordable homes on the former Dagenham Stamping Plant car works site.’
With the vaccination programme galloping ahead and infection rates showing marked decline in most areas, recovery and the ‘future of the city’ are the talk of the town. The Mayor is apparently bringing together ’leaders and key London organisations at his inaugural Recovery Summit’ today alongside the announcement of a ‘bumper package of measures worth more than £544m to kickstart London’s recovery.’ The Mayor's press release then explains that £499m of this actually refers to investments by utility companies. The capital’s embattled retailers will likely be more interested in the Mayor’s new High Streets for All Challenge, while the beleaguered hospitality sector will likely be more impressed by Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick’s confirmation that pavement licences will be extended for 12 months. Meanwhile, all eyes are on Oxford Street, as a bellwether for the ‘future of the high street.’ Westminster City Council is forging ahead with its plans to give the thoroughfare a facelight (and, erm, a hill), but most businesses are not waiting on politicians to make their moves. To wit, Marks & Spencer has revealed plans to redevelop part of its flagship store, while fashion brand Hugo Boss has scooped up 8,000 sq ft at Selfridges’ The Parcels Building.
- Sir Peter Hendy has been reappointed as Chair of Network Rail for a further two years.
- Chief Executive of Derwent London Paul Williams has been elected as the Westminster Property Association’s new Chair.
- Deputy Leader of Islington Council Cllr Kaya Comer-Schwartz has been confirmed as Richard Watts’ successor as Leader of the Council, after standing unopposed.
- For those looking for a new challenge, Meridian Water, Enfield’s major regeneration project, is recruiting for a new Commercial Project Director.
WHITHER CIL AND S106?
‘Developer contributions’ are arguably the most contentious component of England’s planning process. But while the focus tends to be on the level of contributions extracted from individual schemes, people often forget to check up on what happens to those contributions down the line. Not so for Property Week’s sleuths, who have analysed (more here) the latest available annual Infrastructure Funding Statements (IFS) of every local planning authority in London that they could get their hands on. They have found that London’s local planning authorities were, at least as of end-March 2020, ‘sitting on at least £1.29bn in unspent developer contributions’ – £914m from Section 106 and nearly £374m from Community Infrastructure Levy payments. That is without counting seven planning authorities that have yet to publish their IFS. Many developers (who have ‘coughed up’ the contributions) and indeed local communities (who are meant to benefit from them) will be understandably miffed. However, spokespeople from the Local Government Association and individual boroughs are cited by Property Week as stating that it’s not quite that simple and that Councils obviously want to spend this money – indeed, how could they not, considering well-documented pressures on their budgets? Most, they argued, are simply pooling funds to spend them on big infrastructure projects, which require careful and often time-consuming planning.
While on the subject of local government finances, we’d encourage readers to join in on the collective sigh of relief at Croydon Council finally being granted its capitalisation direction – a heavily conditional and caveated bailout of sorts, but a lifeline nonetheless.
LONDON TRANSPORT LATEST
Yesterday, the Transport for London (TfL) Board met for the final time before the Mayoral election. With its current funding agreement set to expire on 31 March, it had been hoped that a new deal would have been agreed between TfL and the Government by the time the Board met, but TfL Commissioner Andy Byford confirmed at the meeting that this was not the case, which he said was ‘disappointing’. Byford argued that TfL will do all it can to secure a deal ahead of the deadline, reiterating that the network will be central to London’s post-COVID recovery and that if adequately funded, it could also contribute to the Government’s wider agenda on a number of fronts, including decarbonisation. Separately, the Government this week announced ‘Bus Back Better’, its national bus strategy for England, specifically ‘outside London’. Bus services in the capital are instead used in the strategy as the gold standard, with the Prime Minister writing in his foreword that the new strategy will ‘make buses more frequent, more reliable, easier to understand and use, better co-ordinated and cheaper: in other words, more like London’s’. A gratifying acknowledgment for London’s transport planners, but one that does little to ensure the city’s transit network will remain at the top of its game.
TOWARDS NET ZERO
Speaking of a green recovery, three recent initiatives stand out as developments to watch as the country gears up to meet ambitious ‘net zero’ targets:
- The Construction Leadership Council (CLC) has announced CO2nstruct Zero, a programme calling on businesses across the industry to play their part helping to secure net zero carbon aspirations by 2050.
- The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has opened a new inquiry into net zero, scrutinising the Government’s aim of making all new homes ‘zero carbon read’ by 2050.
- The Government has announced a new Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy and £1bn of funding to cut emissions from industry, schools and hospitals.
FROM THE EVENT CIRCUIT
After a slow and Zoom-weary (or should we say zoom-wary?) start to the year, we’re starting to really enjoy the resumption of the event circuit. We attended pre-election events by OnLondon and New London Architecture last week, which provided much food for thought as we approach the 6 May poll. We tremendously enjoyed OnLondon’s event, which was nothing less than a field day for anoraks, with Dave Hill ably chairing a lively discussion between pollster Philip van Scheltinga, Hammersmith & Fulham Councillor Christabel Cooper and our friend Professor Tony Travers of the LSE. NLA’s event, which focused more on the built environment, was a more formal affair – but seasoned Chair Peter Murray ensured that a roster of six speakers representing the sector and four ‘surrogates’ standing in for the Mayoral election’s leading candidates all had their say. Looking ahead, we received word last week from the organisers of MIPIM Cannes, announcing that a ‘MIPIM September Edition’ is to be held in Cannes, between 7-8 September, with the event returning to its ‘traditional dates,’ from next year when it will (hopefully) run from 15 to 18 March. We can’t wait!
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